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Bergen police arrest risk takers who can’t stay out of floodwaters

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

CLIFFVIEW PILOT EXCLUSIVE: Police in Bergen were so busy in the storm and flood that they are only now getting to tallying the arrests they had to make, including a man charged with boating while intoxicted, and a group of young adults caught in the current from the Oradell Reservoir as they tried swimming to their car — requiring a full-scale rescue operation.

New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro was angered by the group, who said they were trying to swim to their car at the River Edge train station.

“The members of the New Milford Policed Department and New Milford Fire Department spent many hours risking their lives the prior afternoon rescuing residents in the same area,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “All were exhausted, but the defendants’ collective stupidity caused these rescuers to once again place their lives in extreme danger, and for no reason.

“They are alive today because Lt. [John] Kiene was in the right place at the right time to hear their cries for help and because of the proficiency of the Fire Deptartment’s Water Rescue Team. If either of those elements were missing, they would be statistics today. “

Kiene was on patrol around 2:30 a.m. Monday, keeping an eye out for anyone in trouble, when he he heard shouts for help near Columbia Street and River Edge Avenue, an area frequently plagued by raging flash floods.

Even though the area was barricaded, four men jumped into the current to try and swim to their car, parked at the River Edge train station, New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Officer Daniel LaMorges quickly arrived to back up Kiene, and River Edge police took up positions on the other side. New Milford firefighters brought a boat and plucked the four, who had been clinging to a tree, the chief said.

They refused medical attention and were given summonses charging them with with disorderly person offenses for “creating a hazardous and physically dangerous condition by an act that serves no legitimate purpose of the defendant.”

Papapietro identified them as: Patrick J. Ferro andJonathan M Tiongko, both 24, of Madison Avenue in New Milford; Rebecca C. Trama, 22, of Bloomfield, and 24-year-old Erika L. Gramsch of Ho-Ho-Kus.

All five are due in New Milford Municipal Court on Sept. 14.

A fifth member of their group was found standing on the River Edge side, he said. That man, 22-year-old Michael J. Holden of Paramus was charged as well.

Papapietro wasn’t the only chief stewing this week.

A little after 12:30 a.m. Thurday, Officer Mike Prelich stopped a boater who had just shakily brought a 12-foot Coleman boat through the Saddle River floodwaters on Washington Avenue and River drive just south of the overflowing Dundee Dam and across from Wallington High School.

“The area was lit up with portable light towers we had put up,” Elmwood Park Police Chief Donald Ingrasselino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “Several motorists tried to enter this area and their cars became disabled. Officers were on patrol to prevent this.

“We did not anticipate finding a boat there.”

Prelich brought the man to headquarters, where he failed a breath test. His boat was seized and he was charged with boating while intoxicated.

He was identified as Vesel Sakir, 34, of Washington Avenue in Elmwood Park. With him was 26-year-old David Johnson, of East 40th Street in Paterson, who was charged with a minor drug offense, Ingrasselino said.






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