An off-duty NJ Transit police officer has been hailed a hero for saving two men from dangerous rip currents off the Jersey Shore. On Tuesday, Officer Zachary Sjosward was fishing with two friends at Island Beach State Park Beach — a location not staffed by lifeguards, according to NJ Transit police. Sjosward went to get something from his vehicle and when he returned, both friends had “vanished” — apparently swept away from shore.
He then saw one of the men in the ocean, struggling in the water.
Sjosward grabbed a bodyboard from his vehicle and entered the ocean, swimming to his friend and trying to drag him to shore — but the board’s line snapped and it was swept away.
The officer still managed to rescue his friend, relying on his water survival and intervention training. Sjosward then saw his second friend, partly underwater and being pulled out.
“Despite extreme exhaustion, and with disregard for his own life and safety, Sjosward again entered the water. He made his way to his friend, fought through the current and brought him to shore,” according to NJ Transit police. Sjosward flagged down a passing motorist who helped to call 911 — both men were rushed for treatment and survived.
“Officer Sjosward’s actions exemplify our NJTPD Core Values: Honor, Commitment, Integrity, and Courage," the written release also said.
Parents and loved ones of the two men saved by Sjosward wrote their gratitude alongside the Facebook post of the heroic rescue, as shared to the NJ Transit Police page, "A true hero!! I can never repay Zach for saving my sons life."
Sjosward, a Clifton native, was among the 27th graduating class at Mercer Police Academy this past July — during which he received the emergency vehicle operations award.
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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey
A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.
From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.
Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.
If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.
Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.
You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.
Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.
Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.
I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions: