A tractor-trailer careened off the side of Interstate 95 in New Jersey and smashed into a guardrail Tuesday morning, sending the 66-year-old driver into a creek below and igniting part of the cab.
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the accident on the interstate’s northbound lanes in Ridgefield Park. Driver Lawrence Scherf, of Vails Gate, escaped the burning cab of the tractor trailer and wound up in the Overpeck Creek, which runs under that part of the highway.
Three state troopers waded through water up to their necks to pull Scherf out of the creek. Chopper 4 captured the daring rescue, following the troopers as they climbed up a ledge with Scherf on a stretcher and hoisted him back onto the highway.
"The whole time we just kept telling him, myself and the other two troopers, that he was going to be alright, we were going to make sure nothing happened to him, we were going to get him out of there OK, in one piece, and that's exactly what we did, " said Trooper Luis Cardenas, one of the three troopers who participated in the rescue.
Scherf was airlifted to the hospital with burns on 65 percent of his body and lacerations, authorities said. His rescuers were taken to a hospital as a precaution.
Chopper 4 footage from the scene showed the charred front of the tractor-trailer dangling off the roadway, part of it partially submerged in the creek. Heavy smoke was wafting from the vehicle and the northbound inner roadway to Route 80 West was closed while crews worked.
Other lanes of traffic were open, but the accident caused heavy delays.