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High-tech camera helps Fish and Game bring closure to families of drowning victims

Union Leader Correspondent

September 20. 2017 9:12PM
This underwater photo of the license plate was taken on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, the day officials found the 1996 Ford Ranger at the bottom of the Androscoggin River in Errol. (COURTESY)

ERROL — A remotely operated vehicle with side-scan SONAR and camera acquired a year ago by New Hampshire Fish and Game is bringing closure to some families.

The ROV SONAR/camera was used to find two snowmobilers who drowned on Feb. 11 in Lake Winnipesaukee. And on Monday, it located in the Androscoggin River a submerged truck that contained skeletal remains believed to be those of a man missing since 1998.

“I don’t think I can accurately describe what it means to the family to bring home someone after 20 years,” Col. Kevin Jordan, Fish and Game’s chief of law enforcement, said Wednesday.

Tony Imondi, 26, was last seen on July 20, 1998 when he attended a horseshoe tournament at the former Bill’s Seafood on Colebrook Road, also known as Route 26.

Police have said foul play is not suspected.

Investigators at New Hampshire State Police Troop F believe that Imondi, driving his girlfriend’s 1996 Ford Ranger pickup, was traveling southbound on Route 16 when the truck crossed into the northbound lane and continued the short distance into the Androscoggin.

The truck was removed from the river on Tuesday. The New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Office is performing an autopsy today to confirm the identity of the remains, although Imondi’s family has already been notified.

There were searches of the Androscoggin at the time Imondi disappeared 19 years ago but those were done by divers faced with limited underwater visibility.

The $100,000 ROV SONAR/camera, added to Fish and Game’s inventory through a Homeland Security grant, is a game-changer, officials said.

“We’re finding things we couldn’t find 20 years ago,” Jordan said.

On Fish and Game’s Facebook page, Audra Avery wrote that while Imondi’s life had a “sad ending” his family and friends now “can have closure.”

Claude Ladd remembered Imondi, who lived in Milan at the time he disappeared, as “a good kid.”

Dave Heasley, owner of Errol’s airport, said he knew Imondi when he worked as a dishwasher at Bill’s Seafood, but said they spoke only a few times.

Heasley extended condolences to Imondi’s family and friends, as did Shawn Cote, the general manager of the L.L. Cote outfitter store.

Also a member of the Errol Fire Department, Cote said it’s uncommon for vehicles to go into the Androscoggin, which parallels Route 16 south from Errol for several miles.

“It just doesn’t happen as much as you’d think,” he said, despite the fact that the river is never more than 20 feet from the roadway.

Attempts to contact Imondi’s family members were not immediately successful.

The 1996 Ford Ranger was covered in silt when it was discovered at the bottom of the Androscoggin River in Errol on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. (COURTESY)

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