Two people die in storm In Hopewell Township, three officers barely escape rising waters after rescue attempts

The scene in Pennington on Route 31 Wednesday night. Hopewell Valley experienced flash floods and more than 50 water rescues took place overnight. Photo: Jennifer Curtis.

Two people died in Hopewell Township as Tropical Storm Ida swept through the region and caused widespread flooding and flash flooding.

The names of the two victims of the storm are not being released yet.

Three police officers almost lost their lives in the storm trying to help others. More than 50 water rescues were conducted overnight by Hopewell Township Police.

Officer James Hoffman responded to a call from a stranded driver on Route 518 east of Route 31. While struggling to reach the person in need, his vehicle was swept sideways and was rapidly lifted by the rising water of the Stony Brook. He realized quickly that he needed to get out of the car, but his car door would not open due to all the water pressure. He removed his gear and was able to escape the vehicle through the window. Finding himself in deep, flowing water, Hoffman traveled about 100 yards and was finally able to grab onto a tree. He held on while the water continued to rise.

Officers Michael Makwinski and Robert Voorhees attempted to reach Hoffman, and quickly found themselves in a similarly perilous position. All three officers held on to trees for about two hours until rescue units from all over the area and the state could arrive to help them. The three officers were rescued by the efforts of the swift water rescue teams from the Union Titusville Fire Company, the Lawrenceville Fire Company, and the Hamilton Fire Department. Two officers were transported to the hospital, then examined and released. They were wet and exhausted, but otherwise unharmed.

“We easily could have lost three officers last night,” Police Director Bob Karmazin said of the incident. Karmazin expressed his thanks to the many search and rescue organizations who worked to save the officers and then continued with other rescue and recovery efforts.

Organizations that assisted the Hopewell Police and community included Hopewell Fire and EMS, Hamilton Fire Department, Lawrenceville Fire and Police, West Windsor Police and EMS, Robbinsville Police and EMS, New Jersey Task Force 1, Camden County High Water Rescue, Mercer County Sheriff, Mercer County Rapid Response Task Force, Mercer County Prosecutors, and the NJ State Police.