On Christmas night, at approximately 8:20 pm, two Jersey City police officers performed their final acts of service to the people of Jersey City and the surrounding areas. Police Officers Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen, members of the Emergency Services Unit, responded to a call for traffic flares to be placed on the west side of the Hackensack River (Draw) Bridge on Lincoln Highway (Route 1 & 9).
These officers crossed the drawbridge and placed the flares in order to alert drivers to the dangerous conditions at the bridge. The fog was thick and heavy, rendering visibility to nothing. In addition, safety equipment at the bridge had been damaged two days earlier and was scheduled to be repaired during this week. As a result of the damage to the safety equipment (concrete barrier, descending wooden arm, and audible bell), the only safety warning available was a red traffic light which in the dark of the night was not visible.
Officers Carson and Nguyen placed the requested flares at the appropriate points and returned to their ESU vehicle to head back into Jersey City. They wished their colleagues "Merry Christmas" and with light hearts headed east over the bridge they had crossed just moments before. However, in the thick fog that enveloped them, they did not know that in those few minutes the bridge had been raised for passage by a tugboat. As they attempted to cross the bridge to head "home," they instead plunged into the Hackensack River falling 40 feet from the end of the roadway into 40 degree water.
Eyewitnesses, upon realizing they were headed back over the open bridge, jumped on their cartops and tried to get their attention while the four other police officers on the scene for a previous auto accident, attempted to get in their way and called their attention by waving their flashlights. It all happened so quickly, nothing could stop what was happening.
As members of the Jersey City Police Department's Emergency Services Unit, both officers were trained rescue and recovery scuba divers. Ironically, among the first on the scene to search for them were their own team members. A full search has been underway since then. Later that night, around 10 pm, Officer Carson's body was found and he was later pronounced dead at University Hospital in Newark. Officer Nguyen is still missing.
Due to the rough currents of the channel, the recovery mission (as it is now considered) is stopped periodically while sonar is used in an attempt to locate the missing officer.
By all honest accounts, both Officer Carson and Officer Nguyen were good men, good cops, who truly put their lives at the service of the people both on- and off-duty. Both gave of themselves to the communities in which they lived. Both loved the city and its people and wanted nothing more than to serve among Jersey City's finest.
While I now know of them but did not know them personally, I do have quite a few friends and acquaintances on the Jersey City Police Department. When news first broke of the tragedy, my heart was in my throat. My support, prayers, and sympathy go out to the family, friends, and loved ones of these two hero officers who died in the line of duty and to the Jersey City Police Department I also offer my sincere condolences and a salute.
As the details of this tragedy continue to unfold, may Officer Carson's and Officer Nguyen's deaths not be in vain. May the lives they lived, in fullness until the end, inspire us all to be better people! May they rest in peace, amen!