Video: Off-duty NJ lifeguard jumps into bay to rescue man from sinking car

Lifeguard Anthony Capuano, who lost one of his legs after being struck by a train in 2009, is being hailed as a hero after leaping into the water and swimming the driver to safety

Peter D’Auria

BAYONNE, N.J. — Eleven years ago, first responders saved Anthony Capuano’s life.

Capuano, then 17, was struck by a train in Downtown Jersey City; the accident cost him his leg, but the swift arrival of his brother Michael and a paramedic team saved his life, according to 2009 Jersey Journal reports.

New Jersey Lifeguard Anthony Capuano is being hailed as a hero after rescuing a man from a sinking vehicle in the Newark Bay while off-duty.
New Jersey Lifeguard Anthony Capuano is being hailed as a hero after rescuing a man from a sinking vehicle in the Newark Bay while off-duty. (Photo/Reena Rose Sibayan, The Jersey Journal)

Now, Capuano is in the news again — but this time, he is the rescuer.

The Elizabeth resident is being hailed as a hero after diving into the Newark Bay Tuesday to save a man trapped in a sinking car.

On Tuesday afternoon, Capuano had just finished a workout in the Stephen R. Gregg Park when he heard screaming. A group of roughly 20 bystanders had gathered on the shore, he said, watching a car sinking into the Newark Bay. Video footage of the incident shot by a bystander shows the car, taillights flashing, sinking into the bay around 50 feet from shore.

“Someone had said out loud, ‘Does anybody know how to swim?’” Capuano said. “And I was just like, ‘Oh. I guess that’s me.’ And then I jumped in.”

Capuano, 29, a lifeguard and swim coach at Bayonne’s British Swim School, has been swimming for more than a decade. He finished his lifeguarding courses just before the train accident.

“The day that I lost my leg, I was supposed to pick up my certification card,” he said.

In the video, Capuano can be seen swimming furiously through the bay toward the vehicle, while onlookers scream from the shore.

“It was crazy because I got him out in the last second,” he said. “It was that moment when a car goes into a body of water where all the air releases and then the car sinks. That’s basically when I pulled him out.”

Capuano and a friend, Marcelino Cruz, brought the man back to shore. A statement released by the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office said the driver, 68-year-old Joseph Kadian, was attempting to pull over when the accident occurred.

“After an investigation and speaking with the driver, it was determined that while pulling over to answer a call and attempting to park, the driver lost control of the vehicle and simultaneously had his foot on both the brake and accelerator pedals,” the statement reads. “This caused him to accelerate the vehicle into the bay.

"In addition to the vehicle in the bay, there was damage to the fence post and rails where the vehicle entered the water.”

Kadian was released at the scene after a medical evaluation, officials said.

For Capuano, those few minutes in the water catapulted him into the limelight. In addition to local media, he has sat for interviews with FOX, ABC, and CBS. Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis has praised Capuano’s “instincts and his professionalism.”

“It feels weird,” Capuano said. “It’s kind of surreal for me.”

But not everybody was thrilled about the rescue mission. Capuano’s father, he said, “was pretty mad” about the incident.

“He was like, ‘You went in the (bay)?’” Capuano said. “'Do you know how dirty that water is? Do you know about the currents? You know how dangerous it is?'”


(c)2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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