BELLEVILLE — A Good Samaritan leaped into the icy Passaic River and rescued a woman whose car went off the highway on Monday.

The man acted immediately after he witnessed the one-car crash on Route 21 in Belleville around 10 a.m. Monday, and pulled the woman out of her car, which was completely submerged, according to Belleville Police. Officers who responded to the crash threw rescue ladders into the water and successfully got both people out of the water.

The temperature of the water was about 37 degrees at the time, according to Townsquare New Jersey Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow.

The man later identified himself as Michael James to NBC 4 New York, and said there was no question in his mind about jumping in the water and saving the woman. James said she was sitting on the trunk of her car about 100 yards from the shore, screaming that she could not swim.

The Navy veteran said he was stuck in the delay created by the incident and told NBC that several people pulled over, but no one was actually helping the woman.

Belleville Police Lt. John McAloon called James a hero whose actions prevented the incident from having a different outcome.

James told he is a signal maintainer for NJ Transit and has a 2-year-old son.

"NJ Transit commends the quick-thinking actions taken by our employee Michael James. He came upon a situation where a stranger needed help and didn’t hesitate to jump into the frigid Passaic River to save a life. We applaud him and his heroic efforts," the agency said in a statement.

Dive teams from Lyndhurst, Wallington, and Oradell were got the car out of the river.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ.

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