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Maine couple rescues mom and kids from sinking car: 'It was human instinct'

A fishing trip turned into a rescue mission for Leonard and Rosemary Wallace, after a car flew over their heads and landed in a Maine pond.
/ Source: TODAY

A fishing trip turned into a rescue mission for Leonard and Rosemary Wallace on Saturday.

Just 15 minutes after arriving at Fox Pond in East Hancock, Maine, they watched a car fly right over their heads and land in the water, where it started to sink.

Leonard and Rosemary Wallace at Fox Pond in MaineCourtesy of Maine State Police Department

"As soon as my wife saw kids floating in the backseat, she called 911," Leonard Wallace, 60, told

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But because of poor cell phone reception, she had trouble getting through at first, so Wallace knew what he had to do.

Without hesitation, he trekked through frigid water that went up to his chest. After finding a small opening at the top of the rear passenger door, he put his foot on the tire and pulled the door open with all his might.

"It was human instinct," Wallace said of the heroic effort. "You have to have a real compassion for your fellow man once in a while."

He grabbed 2-month-old Tanner Kjenstad — identified, along his mother and sister, by Maine state police — and took him back to shore, where he handed the infant to his wife before returning to the sinking vehicle.

Mandi Parker's sinking carCourtesy of Maine State Police Department

As the car was filling up with more and more water by the second, Mandi Parker, 38, screamed from the front seat, "Take my kids! Take my kids!" But Wallace grabbed 3-year-old Georgia Parker by her pajamas and Mandi Parker by her collar and pulled them over the front seat.

When they got to shore, the couple took the family to their Pontiac Grand Am and wrapped them in blankets to keep warm.

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Rosemary Wallace was still having trouble getting through to 911, so she tried to flag down a motorist with the baby in hand. When they didn't stop, she decided to stand in the middle of Route 182, but — much to her surprise — that measure failed as well. Every car drove right around her.

Police finally called her back and came to the scene, along with two ambulances that took the three passengers to the Maine Coast Memorial Hospital for treatment.

After troopers determined that Parker had been driving back from a nearby methadone drug treatment clinic with a suspended driver's license and alcohol on her breath, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services took custody of the two children.

"I'm glad we were in the right place at the right time, and happy to hear those two kids are now in good hands," Wallace said.