ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: Two friends’ decision to kayak the overflowing Pascack Brook during the height of Thursday night’s flood nearly cost one of them his life, but a team of firefighers and police from Hillsdale snatched him before he could be sucked under a bridge.
Firefighters had just finished evacuating the area behind the Friendly’s Restaurant at Patterson Street and Washington Avenue when Police Capt. Michael Niego spotted one of the kayakers clinging to a branch just below the bridge.
“There’s somebody in the brook,” he shouted.
Police Chief Chip Stalter said he grabbed the hooked aluminum pole used in rescues and rushed it to a firefighter, who snagged the kayaker by his safety vest.
While he held on, borough firefighters Steve LaFrance and Anthony Malouf, both in quick-water rescue gear, scrambled down the embankment and pulled the man to safety.
And not a moment too soon.
“We were running seven feet above normal flow in the Pascack Brook,” the chief said. “There’s usually a good five to six feet of clearance under that bridge, but with that current and the volume of water, there was maybe an inch.
“The kayak got sucked under, but he got out in time and was hanging on when they hooked him. He’s lucky he didn’t get sucked under.”
“Luckily, it was over in a instant,” added Stalter, who praised the “total group effort among firefighters, police, and OEM personnel.”
The 20-year-old River Vale resident and a friend, also 20, put in by St. John’s Church shortly before 8 o’clock Thursday night and easily got past the Hillsdale Avenue bridge, the chief said. But the sudden low clearance of the second bridge cut the trip short after barely 1,000 feet.
The second, more experienced kayaker “veered off to the side before they reached the bridge and took a leisurely ride through the streets,” Stalter said. “He eventually came tooling around, asking people, ‘What’s going on?’ As if he didn’t know what happened.”
Asked what he thought of two men taking a sunset kayak ride in the middle of a flood, Stalter said he preferred not to comment. He noted, however, that both men got an earful from emergency workers at the scene.
“If they were to put in somewhere south of that, maybe Westwood, they could have gone unobstructed,” Stalter said. “People all over the country go whitewater rafting. These guys decided to take the brook.”
“You’re talking about two guys who probably grew up watching ‘Jackass’,” said one of the emergency workers who alerted CLIFFVIEW PILOT to the incident.
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