Concord – June 17, 2008 – Early Sunday morning, Dr. Tom Rock woke to a loud crash at the camp he owns on Diamond Island. He heard something like an explosion; he assumed it was a lightning strike. He grabbed his cell phone and a flashlight and went to investigate. Three hundred yards from his camp, he found a boat that had smashed into the 6-foot-high natural rock wall along the shore.
Stephanie Beaudoin, 34, of Meredith, died in the crash. Erica Blizzard, director of operations of Lakeport Landing Marina, had driven a 37-foot Formula speedboat into the shore at about 2:30 a.m. Blizzard was critically injured, and a second passenger, Nicole Shinopules, was also hurt. The state’s Marine Patrol Bureau has released no information about what might have caused the accident.
The boat was visible in the lake, about 20 feet from shore, when Rock arrived. An anchor chain had flown from below the boat’s bow onto the shore during impact, hitting a building on the site of a former Navy research center there.
Rock saw Shinopules first. He yelled to her from shore while he called authorities by phone. Meanwhile, he asked Shinopules if there was anybody else onboard or in the water. She was delirious, he said, and answered incoherently.
He scanned the boat and the shoreline with his flashlight. It was overcast and pitch dark, he said, and it took several moments before he saw Blizzard lying on her side on the instrument panel. She was moving but not responsive.
Rock is an orthopedic surgeon. He knew that the people onboard were critically injured and could use his help. He ran back to his camp and fetched a rowboat. His wife called the authorities for a second time and came outside to help him. He rowed to the scene of the accident.
The boat was taking on water through a gaping hole in its bow and listing far to starboard that the port side he reached first was raised far above the water. He went around to the back of the boat and was able to climb onboard.
Knee-high water, mixed with gasoline and blood, filled the cockpit. Beaudoin lay on the floor of the boat, with her right leg trapped halfway down the stairs that led forward to the flooded cabin. She was not breathing and had no pulse. Rock could feel immediately that her neck was broken in multiple places.
Rock attempted to resuscitate her with CPR, with no success.
He asked Shinopules to identify herself and her companions. She knew her friends’ names, but not which was which. As Rock relayed the three names to his wife, who passed them on to authorities by telephone, the couple realized they had met the women before.
“They know the children, and our friends,” said Rock. “It was a very sad reckoning.”
He could see that Blizzard had suffered serious facial injuries. Her eye was swollen shut, but she was still breathing. He returned his attention to Beaudoin, even though he knew she was already dead.
“Nicole was screaming to save her,” he said.
It was gently raining. There was some fog in the area, but visibility was reportedly as three miles at the nearby Laconia Airport.
About fifteen minutes after the initial call, the Gilford Fire Department arrived, Rock said. Shinopules climbed aboard the department’s 24-foot aluminum rescue boat while Rock and the fire fighters put Blizzard onto a stretcher with a neck brace and carried her into the other boat.
Helicopters were ready in Portland and Lebanon, Rock said, but could not travel because of the weather. The rain got stronger after the rescue boat arrived.
The two survivors were taken to the Ames Inn Farm in Gilford, where they were transferred by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia.
From there, Blizzard was taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, where her father, Paul Blizzard, said she was being kept unconscious by doctors yesterday. He said that his daughter was in stable condition, and that there was no indication of brain damage.
“Tell your readers to pray for her,” he said.
Paul Blizzard owns Lakeport Landing Marina on Paugus Bay in Laconia, which sells high-performance Formula speedboats like the one that crashed. His daughter has largely taken over the day-to-day operations of the business and is president of the New Hampshire Recreational Boaters Association, which has campaigned against speed limits on Lake Winnipesaukee. Gov. John Lynch’s signature on a bill passed by the House and Senate would make it illegal to pilot a boat over 45 mph during the day and 25 mph at night for two years starting Jan. 1.
Shinopules went to the Lahey Clinic in her hometown of Burlington, Mass., on Sunday. The hospital did not list her as a patient last night. Her family could not be reached yesterday. Paul Blizzard said that she had broken her nose and jaw.
The three women had been friends since they were children, he said, and were staying at a cabin on Sleeper Island the night they crashed. They had played a Fathers Day prank on him that night, according to Beaudoin’s father, Edgar Beaudoin.
Rock stayed with Beaudoin’s body in heavy rain after the accident for an hour while the firefighters took the two survivors to the hospital. Her funeral will be handled by Simoneau-Paquette Memorial Home in Laconia, and the ceremony will take place at St. Joseph Church.