N.J. Police Chief Rescues Mom and Her 2-Year-Old Daughter After They Fall Into Frozen River

"I jumped in [the canoe] and I just basically clawed my way to the center," Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno said

A mom and her 2-year-old daughter have a police chief to thank for saving their lives after they both fell into a frozen New Jersey river.

The duo was standing on the frozen Passaic River, about 50 yards away from shore, when they suddenly fell into the ice around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, WCBS reported.

Bystanders at the scene told the outlet they witnessed the scary incident but could only call 911 for help.

"They were walking in the middle of the river… Next thing you know, I didn't see both of them," a witness told WCBS. "She was struggling. I kept telling her to stand still, but she was scared and afraid … I couldn't help much because it was too dangerous."

Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno was one of the first people to arrive at the scene but said he refused to wait for back up.

"She was basically holding the baby with one arm and keeping herself afloat with the other," he recalled, according to WCBS. "Thirty seconds felt like 10 minutes. The mother was screaming. She said she couldn't hold the child anymore. I couldn't sit still and do nothing."

After finding a canoe from a nearby gas station, Foligno said he "jumped in it and I just basically clawed my way to the center" using a shovel as a paddle, the outlet reported.

He eventually made his way to the mom and her daughter, before pulling both to safety and having firefighters bring their canoe into shore.

"I can't imagine how they lasted that long," Foligno explained, according to WCBS. "For the 20 or 25 minutes I was out there in the boat with just water touching me, I was freezing."

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Paramedics transported the mom and baby to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center, and said the toddler's body temperature was in the mid-80s, WCBS reported.

At this time, it is unclear why the mom and her daughter were on the river.

Officials are still investigating the incident, but say both are expected to recover.

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