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State troopers praised for harrowing rescue of firefighters from the Passaic River

A group of Clifton firefighters went over a waterfall while they were performing a rescue of their own.

Matt Trapani and Amanda Lee

Jun 29, 2023, 8:47 PM

Updated 356 days ago

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New Jersey state troopers are being praised for rescuing a pair of Clifton firefighters who fell into the Passaic River while attempting their own rescue on Wednesday.
The Clifton Fire Department was called to the river Wednesday afternoon after three construction workers became stranded in the river on their boat.
But things took a wild turn when the fireboat got caught in a current and ended up going over Dundee Falls. The state police had to come in to save two firefighters.
“Hoisting is inherently dangerous. It’s the last option, typically, but it has to be done sometimes,” says state police pilot Lt. Enrique Villa. “You have a dam feeling into another dam. You have boats that have to tether up.”
The second firefighter was closer to the edge, meaning the hoist operator, pilot and rescuer had to get lower to the ground to get the victim out of the water.
“I’m trying to tell the pilot what to do in order to get the rescuer into the boat on the ground so it’s a pretty hair-raising event,” says hoist operator, Sgt. Jason Jorgesen.
The trooper who had to rappel from the helicopter is Trooper Shamik Songui. He says it was his first rescue.
“First time for an actual rescue but as far as training we train with these guys all the time,” says Songui.
Songui says that although it was his first save, he has been training for this moment.
“Just trying to remember everything we learned in training, just try to keep going through it in your head,” Songui says.
“Just to go out there and help people is basically the job so that’s what I come to work for every day,” Jorgesen says.
The firefighters and construction crew are all expected to be OK. No one was seriously hurt.
The water from the river was higher than usual due to heavy rain the last few days.


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