Hopewell Township was hit hard by Tropical Storm Ida: major roadways and many secondary roads were impassable throughout Hopewell Valley on Sept. 1 and 2.
There were many stranded motorists and residents in homes, requiring 50 overnight water rescues and resulting in two fatalities, according to information provided by the Hopewell Township Police Department. The names of the deceased are not being released at this time.
A call was received from a stranded motorist on from Route 518, east of Route 31, and Officer James Hoffman responded to attempt a rescue. While struggling to reach the person in need, his patrol vehicle was swept sideways and was rapidly lifted by the rising water of Stony Brook, according to the statement. Very quickly, Hoffman realized he needed to get out of the car, but the door would not open due to the pressure of the water.
Hoffman removed the gear he was wearing and was able to escape the vehicle through the window, according to the statement. Finding himself in deep, flowing water, Hoffman traveled about 100 yards and was finally able to grab onto a tree. He held on while the powerful water continued to rise.
In response to Hoffman’s distress, Officers Michael Makwinski and Robert Voorhees attempted to reach him, and quickly found themselves in a similar perilous position. With all three officers in the water, holding on to trees for approximately 2 hours, rescue units from all over the area and the state arrived to provide aid, according to the statement.
The three officers were rescued by the efforts of the water rescue teams from the Union Titusville Fire Company, the Lawrenceville Fire Company and the Hamilton Fire Department.
Two officers were transported to the hospital, examined and released. They were wet and exhausted, but otherwise unharmed, according to the statement.
Police Director Bob Karmazin said, “We easily could have lost three officers last night.”
The director expresses his deepest appreciation to the many search and rescue organizations who responded when needed, and then continued on with recovery efforts. These organizations included Hopewell Fire and EMS, Hamilton Fire Department, Lawrenceville Fire and Police, West Windsor Police and EMS, Robbinsville Police and EMS, New Jersey Task Force 1, Camden County High Water Rescue, Mercer County Sheriff, Mercer County Rapid Response Task Force, Mercer County Prosecutors, and the NJ State Police.