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Men who saved Summerside driver from sinking car say they're just happy to have helped

Brian Levesque, left and John Waddell meet at Summerside’s Holman’s Wharf Wednesday afternoon. Both men jumped into the water Tuesday morning to pull a man from a sinking car.
Brian Levesque, left and John Waddell meet at Summerside’s Holman’s Wharf Wednesday afternoon. Both men jumped into the water Tuesday morning to pull a man from a sinking car. - Colin MacLean
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

When his heart finally stopped pounding and the adrenaline coursing through his body tapered off – it dawned on him how easily it could have all gone wrong.

Brian Levesque was sitting alone in his car, dripping wet and exhausted. He knew he had to go get his wife in Kensington. But he was compelled to just sit there for a few moments while the events of the previous hour replayed over and over again in his mind.

“I just couldn’t stand there and watch somebody die,” he told the Journal Pioneer on Wednesday.  

Levesque is one of the bystanders who jumped into action Tuesday morning when a car drove over the side of Holman’s Wharf and landed in Summerside's harbour. John Waddell was the other.

A 62-year-old Summerside man was the only person in the car.

Levesque was heading into nearby Arsenault’s Fish Mart when he saw the car drive off the dock.

Waddell a resident of Summerside who works nearby and was on the wharf when the incident occurred.

Levesque got back in his car and headed over to the side of the wharf where a number of people had started to gather, including Waddell. The car was still floating at that point and they could see the driver sitting with both hands on the wheel.

Levesque served almost 20 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force and is a recently retired fire prevention officer with the City of Edmonton. He and his wife are summer residents of P.E.I. and have a cottage the Darnley area.

He said it was “instinct” that made him quickly empty his pockets, yell for help and jump into the harbour.

Brian Levesque was one of two men who jumped into Summerside Harbour Tuesday morning to pull a man out of a sinking car. The other was John Waddell. Both men are thankful the situation had a happy ending. - Colin MacLean
Brian Levesque was one of two men who jumped into Summerside Harbour Tuesday morning to pull a man out of a sinking car. The other was John Waddell. Both men are thankful the situation had a happy ending. - Colin MacLean

“There was about 15 or 20 seconds there where I thought, ‘This might not end well for either of us,’ because it was hard swimming with an anchor, which is all he was in the water.”
-John Waddell

Waddell, who jumped just ahead of him, said he had no intention of watching someone drown.

“Other than that, I don’t really have a reason,” as to why he decided to jump in.

By the time the men reached the car, whatever air pockets were keeping it afloat gave out and it sank. Quickly.

It was a minor miracle that the driver wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and the window of the car was open, said Levesque, as the man partially floated out of the car.

“I just happened to see the crown of his head and pulled him up,” he said. “I just started swimming for my life, and his life.

“There was about 15 or 20 seconds there where I thought, ‘This might not end well for either of us,’ because it was hard swimming with an anchor, which is all he was in the water.”

Waddell said he was “gassed” by the time they got the victim to the surface and secure enough to haul him back to the wharf.  

Fortunately, an attendant from the nearby Off the Wallz Splash Park arrived on the scene in a jet ski and motored them in the water over to the wharf’s built-in ladder. Some onlookers helped haul all three men up.

Levesque wanted to track Waddell down Wednesday to shake his hand in thanks, which he did. Looking over the wharf to where the now removed car went under, both men shook their heads in disbelief.

“I’m glad we did it for sure, he’s definitely in a better place (compared to the alternative),” said Waddell.

Levesque doubts he will ever forget what it felt like to go into that water, the few moments he realized it could all end badly, or the relief of getting back to safety.

“We’re connected by this event for the rest of our lives,” he said.

Summerside Police Services is still investigating the incident, but said Tuesday the driver of the car suffered an unspecified medical emergency prior to going in the water.

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