Camden, NJ – Four quick-thinking Collingwood police officers heroically saved the life of a motorist who became trapped inside his quickly-sinking vehicle last week.
The incident began at approximately 6:34 a.m. on Aug. 21, when the Collingswood Police Department (CPD) received a call that a vehicle had crashed into the Cooper River near Route 130 North, the department said in a press release later that afternoon.
The male driver of the crashed car was trapped inside.
CPD Sergeant Ken Jacoby, Sergeant Brian DiCugno, Officer Nick Bruns and Officer Eric Roseboro arrived at the scene first and spotted a man frantically trying to pry his way out of the partially-opened driver’s side window of the rapidly-sinking car, the CPD said.
“It quickly became evident that the male would be unable to free himself from the sinking vehicle,” the department said.
Without hesitation, the four officers grabbed a rope, and expandable baton, and a flotation vest from their vehicles and headed into the water to rescue the trapped driver.
The car was almost entirely submerged when they reached it.
“Further complicating the rescue, the driver’s side window was now found to be closed, and a combination of airbag deployment and muddy water prevented Sergeant Jacoby from seeing into the vehicle,” the CPD said.
Sgt. Jacoby busted out the driver’s side window, but wasn’t able to locate anyone inside the car due to the obstructions.
He and Sgt. DiCugno broke out the river’s side rear window and the rear hatch window, but still were not able to locate the driver.
Officer Roseboro then reached the car and dove down to make a second attempt through the driver’s window.
He successfully located the driver and started pulling him out the window with the help of Sgt. Jacoby and Sgt. DiCugno.
The officers were able “to pull the subject’s head above water, where he took a deep breath, confirming he was still alive,” the CPD said.
DRAMATIC WATER RESCUE. Saturday morning, a driver lost control and went into Cooper River and nearly drowned. @CollingswoodPd was less than a mile away and officers jumped in, broke the windows, and helped bring the man to safety. @6abc pic.twitter.com/wfywL9gJU4
— Beccah Hendrickson (@Beccah6abc) August 23, 2021
Police also confirmed he was the only person inside the wreckage.
But the victim was still caught on something in the vehicle, keeping him tethered to the submerged car.
The officers used the rope to tie the car to the shoreline so it couldn’t drift deeper into the water.
With the help of Officer Bruns, they managed to free the driver and got him safely strapped into the flotation vest, the CPD said.
Collingswood Fire Department personnel and water rescue specialists arrived soon thereafter and helped get the officers and the driver to shore.
“This is why we sign up to be police officers, for days like this,” Officer Roseboro told WPVI.
Sgt. DiCugno and Sgt. Jacoby suffered lacerations due to breaking through the windows during the rescue, the CPD said.
They were both transported to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, where they were treated and released.
The driver did not suffer any severe injuries during the near-fatal crash, police said.
Sgt. DiCugno said the crash victim thanked them profusely for saving him, WTXF reported.
“He basically left the ambulance and came up and gave each of us a hug and [was] very grateful, very thankful,” the sergeant said.
“If it were not for the quick, heroic and lifesaving actions of the Collingswood Police Officers, Sergeant Jacoby, Sergeant DiCugno, Officer Roseboro and Officer Bruns, the outcome of this incident would have surely been gravely different,” the CPD said. “This is yet another example of the proud selfless service we provide the community day in and day out.”
Witnesses said the crash victim was driving erratically prior to launching into the water, WPVI reported.
He has been charged with four offenses.