The incident happened on Saturday, March 17, at approximately 4:43 a.m.
Authorities say Trooper Victor Rios observed a man standing next to his car on the right shoulder of the Turnpike northbound in the area of milepost 102.3 in Elizabeth.
When he stopped to see if the man needed assistance, the driver advised Trooper Rios that his cousin got stuck in the swamp adjacent to the Turnpike after he tried to walk through the marsh to rescue a friend whose car was stuck on the other side. The man's feet became entrenched in the mud and he was unable to move.
Trooper Reinaldo Cruz Jr. arrived shortly after Trooper Rios to assist with the rescue. Both troopers attempted to use a large branch to extend to the victim, but due to the frigid temperature of the water, the man was too weak to hold onto the limb and lost his grip.
"It wasn't just water," Cruz said. "It was a very thick frozen mud material, like quicksand, so he was completely paralyzed from the waist down trying to get out."
Several additional troopers arrived and aided in the recovery effort by creating a human chain, but they were unsuccessful due to the man's far distance.
As the victim began to exhibit signs of hypothermia, Trooper Renato Antunese retrieved a lifeguard rescue apparatus from his troop car, which enabled them to use a flotation device to pull the man to safety.
"Your adrenaline is going, and you see another human being out in the water asking for help," Antunese said. "We were specifically trained in the academy for this."
Elizabeth Fire Department and EMS arrived on scene and evaluated the victim. He was later transported to Trinitas Hospital, where he was treated and released.
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