By Mark Morales, CNN
As New York City became inundated with record rainfall earlier this month and dozens found themselves in danger of drowning, a pair of police officers made sure a stranded driver in the middle of Central Park would make it out alive.
Police Sgt. Matt Moschetto waded through rising waters in Central Park to rescue the man, whose car got stuck during the torrential downpour of Hurricane Ida on September 1.
Moschetto and his partner, Officer Jeremias Torres, found the driver standing on a barrier in his socks, while the water flooded his car. The water was rising and the driver was too short to just walk through it, both officers said.
“He was just saying he couldn’t get out,” Moschetto said. “I guess he waited too long to make the move to actually get out.”
There was only one thing the officers could do.
“We got him to lie across my shoulders,” said Moschetto. The extra weight of the driver actually helped Moschetto stay on his feet, he said, since the current was strong enough to have pulled him under.
Moschetto and his partner had become part of the New York Police Department’s rescue response to the surge in flooding the night of September 1. The NYPD had 69 water rescues that night, which included the unnamed driver, who left without giving his name after he was carried to safety.
The remnants of Ida pummeled areas from Virginia to New England as it moved through earlier this month. Dozens died after the storm brought unprecedented rainfall to some places, a toll that included at least 13 people in New York City.
Central Park set rainfall records. More than 3 inches fell in just one hour the evening Moschetto and Torres made the rescue. And the park’s total rainfall — 7.13 inches — was its fifth-highest total for one day.
Moschetto and Torres, who work at the NYPD’s Central Park Precinct, were about to finish their tour when they received calls for flooding along the roadways in the iconic Manhattan green space. When the pair arrived at the spot on the 65th Street Transverse Road, they saw as many as five cars nearly submerged in water and two buses stuck in the distance.
“I hope no one’s in there,” Moschetto said, upon seeing the cars that were stuck. “I told my partner, ‘We’re getting wet today.'”
The two then walked into the brown and murky water wearing department-issued raincoats and carrying a life ring.
“The water was so cold I started trembling,” Torres said. “I’m 6’1″ and the water was to my chest.”
As they marched through the floodwaters, they noticed their radios and other equipment stopped working.
Moschetto’s body camera footage shows the pair wading through the water and yelling out to other drivers, asking whether anyone is stuck inside their cars. After they finish checking the vehicles, they spot the driver, standing on a cement barricade in his socks next to his flooded car.
“You’re going to walk this way with us and I’m going to carry you to where it’s not so deep,” Moschetto is heard telling the driver.
“He was too short to walk. The water was too high,” Torres said of the man.
Torres’ body-worn camera shows the driver on Moschetto’s shoulders being carried out of the water to safety.
“If that cab driver would have fell in that water, he would have been done. No shot,” Torres said. “Because you can’t see, and he would have been trapped between the wall and his car. There’s no way he could have stood up in that water.”
After they rescued the driver, the officers went back into the water to help the buses reverse out of the roadway to safety. They had to work the rest of the shift in their cold, wet uniforms, processing paperwork for drivers who had to ditch their cars.
The damage from Ida was so severe and sudden that President Joe Biden traveled to New York and New Jersey to survey the aftermath.
At least 50 people were killed on the East Coast from the effects of the storm.
And if Moschetto and his partner had not been there, the death toll could have risen even further.
“It’s honestly what we get paid to do. It’s why we’re here,” Moschetto said. “It felt really good to be able to help. I hope somebody would do that for my family.”
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