TOWNSHIP 10, Maine — A Steuben couple who went fishing for brook trout at Fox Pond on Saturday hauled up a much more dramatic catch after a car carrying a mother and two young children plunged into the frigid water.
Maine State Police said Sunday that a woman, whose named was not released, was driving on Route 182 near Fox Pond with her two children in the car when she failed to negotiate a sharp curve, sending her car over a bank and into the water, where it swiftly sank.
The vehicle sailed over the head of Leonard Wallace, who was fishing at the pond with his wife, Rosemary Wallace, police said.
Leonard Wallace dropped his pole and rushed to help the woman and children trapped in the vehicle, braving the 48-degree water to do so.
“Seeing a small child floating in the back, he forced the back door open, despite the immense water pressure, and pulled the child out, bringing the young child to Rosemary, who was on shore,” Maine State Police said in a Facebook post about the rescue.
Wallace then returned to help the mother, who was working to free the second child from the car seat. Once the woman passed him the child, he reached in and grabbed her by the shirt and pulled her and the child to shore.
Wallace said Sunday that the rescue is one that he won’t forget anytime soon.
“It was in slow motion,” he said in a telephone interview. “I was so dumbfounded, I didn’t even know what it was because down underneath that hill, everything sounds different.
“My wife was at the right of the trees over on that little point where the rock is, and I kind of heard this hellacious noise and I’m going, ‘What the heck is this?’ and I turned to look at her and all I see is a car right by my face. I turned and it was right there,” he said.
“It went in nose-first. It went over onto its roof, and the backpressure pushed it back up so I could see its doors,” he said. Then his wife shouted to him that there were children in the car.
“I headed for the door and I got it open and I got them out,” he said. “That was the end of it. It happened so quick.”
Meanwhile, his wife dialed 911 but did not think the call went through. A 911 operator, however, did receive call and was able to locate where it was coming from and send help.
“We got them in the car where it was warm and bundled them up,” he said.
Wallace said that he was pleased to learn from the state police that the mother and two children are doing fine.
“Everything worked out quick and easy,” he said. “It just happened to be that the Good Lord put us there fishing at the same time that they was there,” he said, adding that he and his wife had arrived at their fishing spot only 15 minutes before the car sailed into the drink.
The state troopers who responded noted that Fox Pond is in a remote part of Hancock County where there is no cellphone reception and that the car landed in such a way that it would not have been visible to passing motorists.
“Had the couple not been fishing in that spot that day, state police believe the story could have turned tragic,” police said.
Possible charges are pending for the driver, police said.
The Wallaces never did catch a fish that day.
“Well, I caught my limit — three of them. There was one little tiny one, a medium size one and a large one,” Wallace said with a chuckle.
Wallace said he doesn’t consider himself a hero.
“I’m just a person who has a respect for other human beings who took the initiative to do what I did, that’s all. Something had to be done and it got done.
“I’m just glad that I was there and that my wife was there and that nobody got hurt and it came out OK,” he said.
There was, however, one element of the incident that angered him.
After he got everyone back to shore, he and his wife tried to flag down a woman who was driving by.
“I got right on the white line and stopped her and she drove off. She drove around me to get away from me. She avoided me like the plague.
“I do hope that she happens to see this on the news and realize what she did and it bothers her for a while. I mean, I have no grudge against anybody. It’s just that in my book, that’s downright immoral. That’s just wrong,” he said.