RIDGEFIELD - Three New Jersey State Police troopers are being called heroes for rescuing a driver who fell into a creek after his tractor-trailer crashed through a guardrail and caught fire.
State police say 66-year-old Lawrence Scherf, of Vails Gate, New York, sustained burns and lacerations in the accident along the New Jersey Turnpike Tuesday morning.
The crash happened just before 6 a.m. in the northbound lanes where the Turnpike meets Interstate 80 in Ridgefield. Scherf jumped 30 feet from the burning cab into the water as it dangled over Overpeck Creek.
State police say troopers Luis Cardenas, Jason Serrano and Mohamed Hussein jumped into the water to make the rescue. Aerial video showed the troopers and firefighters lifting Scherf in a rescue basket from the water and onto the roadway.
"Pretty much the whole time we were telling him that he was going to be all right," says Cardenas.
Scherf was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center and later transferred to St. Barnabas Medical Center's burn unit where he remains in critical condition. Troopers say he suffered burns to more than 60 percent of his body.
"The troopers acted heroically," says Captain Ernie Giampietro. "They did an outstanding job with total disregard for their own safety by jumping into that water and providing the lifesaving rescue that they did."
The troopers simply say they went into action as they had been trained to do.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.