State troopers rescue man from frigid swamp waters

Posted: Updated:

Some New Jersey state troopers are being called heroes for rescuing a man from frigid, swampy waters.

State police say that the troopers noticed a man standing on the shoulder of the New Jersey Turnpike in Elizabeth last Saturday morning. The man said that his cousin was stuck in the swamp after trying to get to a friend whose care was stuck on the other side.

“He called me in distress, almost crying, and me being a good friend, I tried to help him out,” says Jonathan Rivera.

Rivera says that his friend called him at 4 a.m. Saturday asking for help. The friend said that he was lost and followed his GPS to a swamp in a narrow strip that sits between the Ikea and Toys R Us.

Rivera says that he and his cousin drove out the area and went searching in the swamp for the friend. But he says that he soon became stuck in the muck and could not get out.

"He decided to take a swim across the swamp to try to save [his friend],” says Rivera’s cousin Rafael. “A couple seconds later I hear him. He's stuck in the swamp."

Rafael did not follow his cousin into the swamp and called police instead. State troopers quickly responded.

"It was kind of like quicksand,” says Trooper Renato Antunese. “He was completely paralyzed from the waist-down trying to get out."

It took about eight state troopers to try to save Rivera.

"They tried to pass me a tree but since I was all wet and everything was wet I couldn’t really grab on to it,” Rivera says.

Eventually the troopers wrapped a roped tied to a lifeguard buoy around Rivera’s torso and the troopers were able to pull him out. Rivera was taken to the hospital to be checked out for possible hypothermia.

"They put their lives on the line for me and I appreciate every one of them who helped,” he says.

Rivera was OK and says that he and his cousin now laugh about the situation.

"Now I carry a rope in my car just in case I need to pull him out,” Rafael says. “I don't know what other swamps we are going to run into."

Rivera’s friend was eventually able to get his car towed out of the area. He says that he has learned not to always rely on a GPS for directions.

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