New Jersey Police Chief Recalls Rescuing Mom and 2-Year-Old From Frozen River: 'She Just Kept Screaming'

The 38-year-old mom and her daughter thanked Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno in high spirits Friday.

A New Jersey police chief recalled the harrowing moment he rescued a mom and her 2-year-old daughter from drowning in a freezing cold river. The pair had apparently wandered into the Passaic River to take pictures of some geese and had fallen through the ice.

“She just kept screaming ‘We're going to die, we're going to die,” Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno told Inside Edition. “I just kept telling her, ‘No, we’re not going to die. I got you, stay calm.’”

He explained it all started with a panicked 911 call from a witness saying that there was a mother and child in the middle of the river.

Foligno ended up taking the call himself, and noticed that 38-year-old mother and her daughter “submerged up to their necks … about 100 to 124 feet out,” he said.

The challenge was figuring out how to get to them.

A gentleman from the gas station had a little plastic red kayak, so I said, ‘let me see if I can use this to get out there,’” he explained. “I have to improvise, otherwise I’m going to witness two people die right in front of me.”

Using his hands, he clawed his way in the kayak through the icy slush and pulled the toddler and woman one by one onto the boat.

“The child was not super responsive, she was very lethargic, I’m assuming, from the cold water” Foligno explained. “So I took off my jacket, this one I have on now, and I wrapped it around her and then I tried to put some body heat on her so I kind of laid my chest on her and she started responding, opening her eyes, and at one point, she started to cry, and I knew that was a good sign.”

Cell phone footage from the incident showed the chief, the mom and her daughter being pulled to shore on the kayak.

Friday, the mom and daughter stopped by the police department in good spirits to thank Foligno.

“I got choked up,” he said. “It was hard not to get emotional.”