Leonard Wallace and his wife, Rosemary, had heard from a friend that people were catching trout at Fox Pond, so on Saturday afternoon they drove up to the remote pond in Hancock County to try their luck.

The Steuben couple had been fishing from an embankment there for no more than 15 minutes when Wallace heard a sound, turned to his right, and saw a car and a wheel flash past his head, missing him by no more than 12 inches.

“I was totally astonished by what happened next,” said Wallace, a 60-year-old Maine native.

He and his wife, who was standing to his right, watched in disbelief as the car sailed over their heads and plunged into the pond several feet from shore. It came down on its roof and bobbed back to the surface. Wallace noticed there was a baby in the back seat.

“There was no hesitation on my part because the car was going down,” Wallace said during a telephone interview Sunday evening.

He waded through frigid water to the rear passenger door and wedged his hand through a small opening at the top. He put his foot on the rear tire for leverage and was able to pull the door open.

Next, he grabbed the baby – a 2-month-old boy – and waded back to shore, where he handed the infant to his wife. Wallace, who is 6 foot 1, said the water was up to his armpits during the rescue.

He waded back to the car, which was filling fast with water. The child’s mother and his 3-year-old sister were trapped in the front seat. The mother could not open the doors because of the water that was pressing in on them.

“She was more concerned about her kids than herself,” Wallace recalled. “She kept screaming at me: ‘Take my kids! Take my kids!’ ”

But instead of just taking the woman’s daughter, Wallace grabbed the front of the child’s pajamas and her mother’s collar and, using both hands, pulled both of them over the front seat, through the rear compartment, and out the door to safety.

When asked why he rescued the family without hesitation, Wallace replied, “It’s called fear and adrenaline.”

He and his wife took the family to their car – a Pontiac Grand Am – and wrapped them in blankets to keep them warm. The woman’s car sank. Authorities told Wallace the water temperature of the pond was about 48 degrees.

After the rescue, Rosemary, while holding the baby, tried to flag down a motorist, but the person just kept on driving. When that failed, Wallace decided to stand in the middle of Route 182 and stop the next car, whose operator drove around him and left the scene.

Rosemary kept dialing 9-1-1 on her cellphone before a police dispatcher finally called her back several minutes later. Cellphone reception in that area is poor.

The Maine State Police responded along with two ambulances, which transported the woman and her two children to an area hospital. Their names have been not released, but state police said the woman could face charges.

Fox Pond is located in Township 10 on a remote stretch of Route 182 – between Cherryfield and Ellsworth – that winds past mountains, lakes and public lands.

The Wallaces said their trip to Fox Pond was the first time they had gone fishing this year.

“My wife and I must have been there for some unknown reason. It’s just not explainable,” Wallace said. “I did what had to be done. There was no time to hesitate because the car was going under.”

Wallace said he earns a living doing “odd jobs” that include mowing lawns and repairing equipment.

Rosemary Wallace, 63, said she was not surprised by her husband’s heroism.

“That’s just the way he is. He is the type of person that if you need something, he will help you, no matter what it takes,” she said.

Though disappointed by the motorists who did not stop to help them, Rosemary said she is not surprised. She calls what she and her husband did a generational thing.

 

 

“A lot of people nowadays are afraid to get involved,” she said. “Our generation won’t be here much longer and I just don’t know what the world is going to come to when we are gone.”

The Maine State Police posted a news release on its Facebook page that described the rescue as “dramatic.”

State police said that the woman’s car went off the road after it failed to negotiate a sharp curve on Route 182.

Her vehicle “careened over the bank, over the head of a Leonard Wallace, who was fishing at the pond with his wife, Rosemary, and plunged into the water, where it swiftly sank.”

The news release said “the car landed in a manner that 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.”

Though the Wallaces can’t explain why they were in the right place at the right time, Facebook commenters on the Maine State Police page offered their theories. More than 900 people had commented on the story as of 10:45 p.m. Sunday.

“Thank goodness this couple decided to go fishing that day. They were put there for a purpose. God was definitely watching out for that mother and her children when he put Mr. and Mrs. Wallace there,” Dawn Kendrick-Wheeland wrote.

“God was looking over them and these two people fishing were their angels during this accident. Just reading what happened gave me goose bumps,” added Jill Richardson.

“Kudos and props to this peaceful fisherman,” wrote Zephyr Knoll. “He caught much more that day than he could have ever expected.”