At risk to his own life, a township police officer last week rescued a woman trapped in an auto stranded in floodwaters at Rutgers Place and Passaic Ave., authorities reported.
The incident occurred at about 12:45 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, as the remnants of Hurricane Lee were battering the area.
Det. Anthony Montanari said Officer Matthew Canova was setting flares at the flooded intersection of Brookfield and Passaic Aves. when he noticed a partially submerged vehicle about a block away, near Rutgers Place.
As Canova approached the car to see if it was occupied, he saw a young woman who was panicking as the raging water was nearing the windows.
After calling for assistance, and with the rain still pouring down, Canova decided he must act and entered the rapidly flowing water untethered, Montanari said. The officer told the driver to put the vehicle in neutral, and then he single-handedly pushed it and its occupant to safety.
Police Director Alphonse Petracco, commending Canova for his heroic actions and potentially lifesaving efforts, noted that the officer, the father of two small girls, put his own life in jeopardy to save someone he didn’t know.
“This was an act of immediacy,” Canova said later, acknowledging that perhaps it was not the best thought-out plan, but seeing the woman and the rising waters, he felt obligated to do something quickly.
Police Chief John Holland said that while “it is not our policy to wade into floodwaters without the use of ropes and assistance,” it is understandable that, “when faced with split-second decision making, officers sometimes act on impulse.”
“Thankfully this incident ended with the woman being saved and Officer Canova unharmed.”
— Karen Zautyk