Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno used a shovel and a borrowed kayak to pull a 2-year-old girl and her mother from the frigid Passaic River Thursday afternoon.
Using the shovel to propel himself, Foligno pushed his way about 75 yards into the river, Detective Capt. Mark D'Amore said.
Both the 37-year-old mother and her child were "were seconds away from going under" as he reached them, the captain said.
The girl held tight to her mom and wouldn't let go, but Foligno managed to get her into the boat without it tipping, then wrapped her in his jacket and held her close to keep her warm.
"We're going to die!" the woman screamed as she clutched at the chief, who eventually calmed her and got her into the craft.
Two borough firefighters in wet suits got to the kayak using an ice rescue sled and ropes, which responders on shore used to pull everyone in.
Police closed intersections to allow the victims to be rushed by ambulance to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson.
Their conditions couldn't immediately be determined. EMS at the scene said the child's core temperature had dropped into the mid 80s, D'Amore said.
Foligno, meanwhile, said he was cold and "trying to gather myself" afterward but otherwise was OK.
A caller reported seeing the woman walking on the ice and falling through near the Elmwood Park Marina, D'Amore said.
Foligno was among the responding officers who rushed to the riverbank and saw the victims about 75 yards from shore, the captain said.
Because of the water temperature, Foligno borrowed the kayak from its owner, he said.
Police and firefighters from the borough, Paterson, Fair Lawn and Garfield were among the responders.
Boyd A. Loving took the photos.
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