A 30-year-old Secaucus man is being lauded as a hero after he jumped into the murky waters of the Passaic River on Tuesday, June 14, to save a woman who drove her vehicle into the river moments earlier.
Nutley police said a vehicle, occupied by a 50-year-old Cranford woman, jumped a small curb on a landing on Dock St. at around 8:30 a.m., into 10 feet of water.
The Secaucus man who rescued the driver, Jason Moss, told Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari, the NPD’s public-information officer, that he had been in a gym across the river in Lyndhurst — King’s Court — when a witness yelled for someone to call 9-1-1. Moss said there wasn’t time to think about anything other than helping, however.
So, he told police, he changed clothes quickly, got over to the Nutley side of the Passaic and dove into the water.
Moss told The Observer how everything unfolded.
“Well, it’s been a whirlwind day to say the least,” Moss said. “I’m a little sore — my leg is sore — but I got a tetanus and the doctor told me I am going to be OK. Doctor also gave me antibiotics.
“I was across the river at the gym — and I guess this is just how I was raised. I knew I had to do the right thing. I left the gym, took off my dress clothes, threw my shorts back on and I knew there was a boat launch there. At this point, the car is about 75% under water. There was another person over there and he kept saying ‘I can’t swim.’ Now, I’m not a professional swimmer, but I am athletic.”
Moss said he didn’t realize, at first, that the water was fairly shallow at the Nutley shore line.
“It was only 10 feet deep, so I scraped my leg when I first jumped in,” Moss said. “When I got to the vehicle, the window was closed, it was under water, and I was having trouble getting the door open. I really struggled at first.”
It was at this point he said he was worried he mightn’t be able to get the door open.
“So I looked back to see if any of the rescuers were there yet. They weren’t. But at this point, I knew I definitely had to get that door open or this woman was going to die. She was already unconscious. So I put my foot onto the vehicle and I gave it all I had — everything — and I was able to get it open and pull her out of the vehicle.”
Moss said he carried the woman over to the shoreline — a short distance from the sinking vehicle — and first responders took her to safety.
“I was fortunate — just as I got her out, there were the rescuers,” Moss said. “But now we were all worried there might be someone else in the car. I asked them if they wanted me to go back to check, but at that moment, the woman woke up and she said she was by herself.”
All in a day’s work for Moss.
“I’ll be back at the gym tomorrow,” he said. “I’m not a hero — just paying it forward.”
Meanwhile, first responders from Nutley, Lyndhurst and Belleville treated the woman at the scene. She was later taken to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Moss refused treatment at the scene, but later took himself to a local urgent-care center to get a tetanus shot for a scrape he sustained on his leg when he first dove into the water.
Nutley police Chief Thomas Strumolo said the woman would have “surely drowned” has Moss not been there because the water had already flowed over the roof of her car when she was pulled from it.
Police Director and Commissioner Alphonse Petracco lauded Moss.
“Jason Moss is a hero,” Petracco said. “His quick action and zero hesitation, risking his own safety to help a complete stranger, exemplifies what a hero is. I am grateful the woman wasn’t seriously injured.”
The incident remains under investigation as to how and why the vehicle, a 2008 Mercury Wagon, ended up in the Passaic.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.