The Seaplane that Sunk in Seneca Lake: Part 2

The Seaplane that Sunk in Seneca Lake: Part 2

This is part two to my previous story about the seaplane that was recovered from the depths of Seneca Lake by local hero Webb Maynard. In this episode of The History and Mysteries of Seneca Lake, I’m going to explain how Webb Maynard used a submarine to rescue a seaplane that sank in 1972. We’ll chat with Webb’s daughter, Kelly Penziul, to get some first-hand information on this Seneca Lake legend.

Meet Kelly Penziul

In part one of the seaplane video I did previously, a lot of questions went unanswered. Now I have more of the story. Today we’re going to dig into how Webb Maynard rescued the seaplane that sank in Seneca Lake in 1972. It was brought up by a submarine in 1990—and Kelly Penziul, Webb’s daughter, will help us tell the tale.

When researching this story, I found out that Harold Maynard (who everyone called “Webb”) sadly passed away. However, I found his obituary and discovered that Kelly Penziul was among his survivors. While we’ve known each other for over 10 years, I had no idea her dad was such a famous figure in Seneca Lake history.

Firefighting and Diving

Kelly explains that her father owned his own auto body shop when she was 14. Called Webb’s Auto Sales, he used to paint cars, fix them up, and do a lot of transmission work. Of course, this was just a side job for him; his main job was as an Elmira City fireman.

Webb worked for the fire department for some 40 years before he retired as a captain. Even before he retired, he had decided he wanted to build a submarine. He’d always been a professional diver; he dove in Seneca Lake for years with a couple of his buddies, even during the wintertime when it was freezing cold.

He also dove professionally for the fire department. For example, he and another fellow fireman had recovered a woman’s purse that she had dropped overboard. He also rescued bodies, as Seneca Lake is very cold, very deep, and very dark. While they’re harder to find, he always gave it a try to recover people from the murky depths.

The Yellow Submarine

In addition to important recovery work, Webb was an adventurer and a treasure hunter. Diving in Seneca Lake, he found a lot of old glass milk bottles and trinkets. In nearby Keuka Lake, he once found a case of champagne that had been down there for a while. Kelly remembers that her dad tried some, though she doesn’t remember exactly how it went over.

When Kelly was in school, her dad started building the “Yellow Submarine.” Webb had met George Kittredge in Maine, and the two became fast friends. George eventually sold Webb the rights to build the submarine—which was painted yellow when it was finished. It was small enough to tow with a car but could still fit one to two people.

Kelly once dove in the submarine with her dad in the lake waters, sinking down about 75 feet. It didn’t feel like they were down that far, but Kelly remembers she thought the experience was really cool.

Tender Nellie and the Schweizer Plane

One of the other parts needed to launch a submarine is a tender, as you can’t just put it in the water from the shore. Webb built a tender that he named “Nellie” after Kelly’s mother. This allowed the submarine to be towed to deeper locations and get out in the middle of the lakes. It also conserves the submarine’s battery, allowing Webb to stay in the water longer.

In 1990, Webb pulled the Schweizer seaplane out of the water—one of his biggest treasure hauls ever. Interestingly, the gentleman that owned it initially wanted the plane back. However, the Schweizer had been hauled to the Maynard family property and kept in the garage. While Webb didn’t want to give it up, he finally agreed to give it back. After all, he had been able to claim the find and the notoriety that went along with it.

The original owner was Dan Schweizer, who had known Webb for years. He kept bugging the diver to try to find the plane because he knew it was in the lake. When Webb finally agreed, it took years of planning to figure out how to get it up.

Bringing Up the Wreckage

The pair devised an inner tube system to help bring the plane up, collaborating with other divers. When it was raised from the Seneca Lake waters on a chill day, there were 500 people to witness the scene. After putting some oil in it and cranking the propeller, the plane still had enough gas that it almost started up—though it had been underwater for years.

Webb was quoted in the paper as saying, “maybe people will leave me alone.” Kelly explains that her dad was more interested in going off and doing bigger treasure hunts, looking for sunken ships down in the ocean in Florida. He would go out on a boat, using sonars and a bigger tender to find more discoveries. While he was never able to bring up really big treasure, he enjoyed looking for it.

Webb’s Legacy

Webb Maynard was an adventurer that lived an exciting life. He passed away in October 2013, leaving behind a legacy as a treasure hunter. Tales of his discovery of the Schweizer seaplane have been documented in newspapers and journals, including the Sherman County Historical Journal. The article was written by William Schweizer himself, the pilot of the seaplane when it sunk. It also includes pictures of the submarine, Tender Nellie, and more.

If anyone else has any other pieces to add to this puzzle—including any Schweizer family members—feel free to reach out to me and I’d be happy to connect. Any additional information only adds to the legend of the sunken seaplane in Seneca Lake.  Make sure to subscribe to my channel so you never miss an episode of The History And Mysteries Of Seneca Lake, where we explore the strange and fascinating stories of this area. Stay tuned to see what I feature next!

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