Wiscasset grad swims to motorist’s aid in Rockport lake

Sun, 03/25/2018 - 5:00pm

    Luck changed quickly for South Thomaston’s Jonathan Marr, 35, Friday night. The jeep he was driving veered off Route 17 and into Chickawaukie Lake in Rockport, Camden-Rockport police said. Then 2011 Wiscasset High School graduate John McLeod, now a Navy diver serving in New London, Connecticut, and a friend McLeod said is also a Navy diver, swam in and got Marr, according to authorities that night and McLeod, in a phone interview Sunday.

    McLeod, 25, swam competitively at the University of Maine. He said he and the other man police identified as Thomas Parhiala, 21, of Salem, New Hampshire had picked up a motorcycle and were headed back to Connecticut when they saw the jeep leave the highway and enter the water.

    They could see a man in the car. “So we ran down the bank, jumped in, and pulled him through the passenger window,” McLeod said. “He started to come to, so I started screaming at him asking if anyone else was in there,” McLeod said. Then he got the motorist ashore and Parhiala stayed with the vehicle to check for any other occupants, McLeod continued. Authorities have confirmed Marr was the lone occupant.

    McLeod said when he got the motorist ashore, other motorists were there who had also pulled over.

    Asked what thoughts went through his head during the rescue, McLeod said he followed his Navy training, which focuses on salvage but also covers helping a fellow diver in trouble.

    “They throw you into all these ridiculous scenarios, so it was kind of normal.”

    His mother Trish McLeod of Wiscasset was proud of what he did, McLeod said.

    Reached Sunday evening, McLeod’s brother, 2009 Wiscasset High graduate Nick McLeod of Brunswick, said he was really proud of him.

    Camden-Rockport Police Chief Randy Gagne said Marr was taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport with complaints of pain. The accident was under investigation, Gagne said.

    Wiscasset Newspaper's online sister paper Penobscot Bay Pilot contributed to this story.

    In a phone interview Tuesday, the morning after his release from Maine Medical Center in Portland, Marr disputed the accounts from officials, McLeod and witnesses. Marr said no one got in the water, helped him out of the jeep or helped him get to shore. When he reached shore, people helped pull him up, he said. Marr said he thought he was going to die, and he was able to save himself only by the will to live for his children.