Police chief uses canoe to save mother, toddler from icy river

ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. (CNN) - A dramatic rescue unfolded on Thursday as first responders saved a mother and her toddler from an icy river in New Jersey.

Onlookers had called 911 after witnessing a woman and her 2-year-daughter fall through the ice in the middle of the Passaic River.

“She was basically holding the baby with one arm and keeping herself afloat with the other,” Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno said.

Foligno got a canoe from a nearby gas station and, while only wearing his uniform and not apparatus, clawed his way through the ice to the pair.

“I tried to first get the mom in the boat, which I was able to do, and then just keep my body heat on the baby to warm her up,” Foligno said.

Paramedics later said the toddler’s body temperature was in the mid-80s.

“I can’t imagine how they lasted that long for 20 or 25 minutes. I was out there in the boat, with just water touching me, and I was freezing,” Foligno said.

Firefighters finally pulled all three of them in the canoe through the ice and back to land. Both the mother and daughter were taken to the hospital and are expected to recover.

Investigators are trying to get more details as to why they were out there in the first place. The mother told Foligno that they were just trying to cross.

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