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A New Jersey police chief “clawed” across a frozen New Jersey river Thursday to rescue a 2-year-old girl and her mother who had fallen through the ice.
Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno jumped into action after hearing a 37-year-old woman and her toddler were stuck in the Passaic River, NorthJersey.com reported.
“The mother was screaming. She said she couldn’t hold the child anymore,” Foligno recalled.
“I couldn’t sit still and do nothing.”
The hero cop used a shovel and a plastic kayak borrowed from a nearby gas station attendant to propel himself about 75 yards on the iced-over river to reach them.
“I jumped in [the kayak] and basically clawed my way to the center and was able to get to them.”
The mom and daughter “were seconds away from going under” when Foligno reached them, Detective Capt. Mark D’Amore told The Daily Voice.
Foligno managed to get the woman and child out of the frigid waters and into the kayak to wait for rescuers.
By that point, the tot was going in and out of consciousness, police said. Her mom was panicked and repeatedly screamed “We’re going to die!” as she clutched the chief.
“While we were waiting I laid on top of them to get some body heat and the child had started to blink,” Foligno said.
About 25 minutes later, firefighters arrived on scene and one of them put on a wetsuit to make his way into the river and pull the kayak to shore, NorthJersey.com reported.
The mom and daughter were rushed to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson and were expected to be OK.
Emergency responders said the child’s core temperature had dropped to the mid 80s when they got to her.
“I can’t imagine how they lasted that long,” Foligno said. “For the 20 or 25 minutes I was out there in the boat with just water touching me, I was freezing.”
It’s still unclear how the duo wound up on the river, but police are investigating.
“The good news is they are safe and we are thankful for that,” Foligno said.
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