Wiscasset Navy diver earns medal for 2018 rescue in Rockport

Posted:  Tuesday, June 11, 2019 - 1:00pm
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Navy Diver Second Class John E. McLeod of Wiscasset, and Navy Diver Second Class Thomas E. Parhiala Jr. of Salem, New Hampshire, will be presented the Navy and Marine Corps Medal at the Dealey Theater on Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut on Wednesday, June 12 at 1 p.m., recognizing them for  heroism displayed on March 23, 2018, when they jumped into Chickawaukie Pond to save a driver whose car veered into the water there.

Vice Adm. Charles A. “Chas” Richard, Commander, Submarine Forces, will be presenting the award to McLeod and Parhiala.

McLeod and Parhiala were traveling northbound on Route 17 near Rockport, Maine when they witnessed an oncoming vehicle swerve across their lane, become airborne, and landed 40 feet into the partially frozen Chickawaukie Pond.

Read: Driver rescued from Chickawaukie Lake in Rockport after Jeep veers off highway into water

“Immediately taking swift action, they made their way down the adjacent embankment and quickly realized that the driver was immobilized and the vehicle was rapidly filling with water and sinking,” according to a news release from the Naval Submarine Support Center, New London Public Affairs. “Without any regard for their personal safety and knowing the full risk of entering icy waters, they swam to the vehicle and found the driver unconscious in between the front and back seats.

“After safely removing the survivor from the wreckage, McLeod swam him safely back to shore while Parhiala stayed behind to verify that no other passengers were inside. Upon reaching the shore, McLeod directed nearby pedestrians to call 911 and quickly began to assess the survivor’s injuries. Once Parhiala verified there were no other passengers, he swam back to shore to help McLeod carry the survivor up the embankment. McLeod and Parhiala then began attempts to rewarm and monitor Marr’s conditions until properly relieved by paramedics.

“McLeod and Parhiala heroically saved the victim from certain death while ignoring their own personal safety. By their courageous and prompt actions in the face of great personal risk, McLeod and Parhiala prevented the loss of life, thereby reflecting great credit upon themselves and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Navy.

“McLeod and Parhiala are both currently assigned to the Naval Submarine Support Facility at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.”

McLeod told  the Wiscasset Newspaper and Penbaypilot.com last year, during the rescue 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.”

Rockport firefighters and police also responded, with the assistance of Rockland Police and North East Mobile Health Services.

Members of the Rockport Fire Department Cold Water Rescue unit entered the water and confirmed there were no other passengers.