HAMILTON (Mercer) — A car went into Gropp's Lake on Saturday morning, submerging two township residents in icy water for nearly 20 minutes. Miraculously, they were pulled out alive.

Police said a 1998 Subaru Impreza hatchback driven by Bernadette Joseph, 40, struck a guardrail as it headed east on Broad Street near the Route 195 exit ramp in the Yardville section around 9 a.m.

Police said the Impreza accelerated as it went across the median, crossed over the westbound lanes of Broad and fell into the lake.

Gary Szabo, the former captain of Trenton's Rescue Squad 1, said wound up in the middle of the lake.

Szabo told photojournalist Brian McCarthy that both women survived being submerged for 20 minutes. EMS crews got a pulse on each before they were hospitalized.

Police identified the passenger as Annelisa Forestin, 18.

Both were taken to Helene Fuld Medical Center, where they are listed in critical condition.

"Cold water can be a good thing for drowning victims," Szabo said in a Facebook post.

Paul Bologna, director of the Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences Program at Montclair State University, said it's not unusual for the human body to go into "diving mode" to stay alive.

"It happens more frequently with kids than it does with adults. When the body gets a really cold shock it goes into this sort of protective mode. It redirects the heat of the body to the vital organs and the brain. It shuts down blood flow to the arms and legs and keeps the core warm to keep somebody alive," Bologna told New Jersey 101.5.

Bologna said seals that will dive 1,200 feet in the ocean will protect themselves in a similar manner.

Divers from Trenton Fire Department helped with the rescue with support from Hamilton's Whitehorse and Rusling Hose Fire Departments.

A worker at the Lakeside Shell gas station used a tow truck to pull the car out after the pair was rescued.

Police asked any witnesses to the incident to call their Traffic Unit at 609-581-4000 or the Hamilton Police Crime Tip Hotline at 609-581-4008.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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