CLIFTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- First responders were lifted out of the water after being stranded on a boat during an active rescue on the Clifton side of the Passaic River on Wednesday.
The dramatic series of events unfolded when a boat with a small team of contractors working on a construction project upstream along the Dundee Dam Falls got disconnected from another boat and drifted, getting stuck teetering on the edge of the falls.
That's when the Clifton Fire Department was called in, but the swift current of the Passaic River proved treacherous even for the rescue team.
"We went out there with our boat and attempted to rescue them," Clifton Mayor Raymond Grabowski said. "Our rescue boat went over the falls with our men in it and was submerged."
The two firefighters in it had successfully rescued the workers, but now they themselves needed to be rescued from their partially submerged boat. They knew stepping out into the raging angry water could be a deadly move.
They would have to be rescued from above by the New Jersey State Police.
"They just happened to be in the area with their helicopter, which is amazing," Mayor Grabowski said. "The chief told me that they were just happy to be in the area and they were called and so that helped."
Eyewitness News captured the dramatic scene as reporter Anthony Johnson watched from the bank and gave a play-by-play of the rescue.
A rescue worker repelled down roughly 100 feet from a New Jersey State Police helicopter via a rope to attempt to lift the two firefighters one-by-one from the boat.
With one firefighter rescued, it would take a few attempts to get the second, as the dangling state trooper swayed while being lowered from the helicopter. Gusty winds and strong currents picked up as the operation continued.
After about 15 minutes, the trooper was able to reach the boat and secure the stranded firefighter and lift him out safely.
Both boats remained stranded Wednesday night, with the worker's boat perched on the falls and the Clifton fire boat partially submerged in the same spot.
The efforts to recover those can resume on Thursday, but all the people who were in them are safe and unharmed.
Clifton's mayor says the firefighters train in this water and respect the danger of it.
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