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HEROES: Lyndhurst Police Free Girl With Autism, 5, Tangled In Park Swing

Lyndhurst Police Sgt. John Castiglia and Officers Steve Passamano, Joseph White, Brian Kapp and Mark Rivera free the girl.
Lyndhurst Police Sgt. John Castiglia and Officers Steve Passamano, Joseph White, Brian Kapp and Mark Rivera free the girl. Photo Credit: Regina Perez

A Lyndhurst police officer held the hand of a 5-year-old girl with autism while his colleagues used bolt cutters to free the frightened youngster from a chain-link park swing.

“We were having a great time and she climbed into one of the swings,” her aunt said after the late Thursday afternoon incident at Town Hall Park. “I was pushing and she was actually smiling.

“When she wanted to get out, I tried lifting her out but her legs were sorta wedged in....the rubber was completely cutting her circulation,” she said. “She is underweight and has long thin legs....being ‘too big’ wasn't the issue.

“She doesn't have good leg strength, can't understand commands/directions and does not communicate. I simply couldn't pull her out,” the aunt said. “After asking other mothers for help, we realized we couldn't get her out.”

The aunt called Lyndhurst police who "arrived within two mins," the aunt said.

Thye included Sgt. John Castiglia and Officers Steve Passamano, Joseph White, Brian Kapp and Mark Rivera.

“Several attempts to free the child were unsuccessful,” Detective Vincent Auteri said.

White then retrieved a set of bolt cutters from his police cruiser.

While White held the child’s hand, Castiglia and Passamano cut the chain and “lowered the apparatus gently to the ground,” Auteri said.

With help from Kapp and Rivera, the trio got the girl out.

"She went right back to playing...immune to the situation," the aunt said, adding that she physically was OK except for some some bruises.

Auteri said the officers “acted swiftly, offered compassion, and demonstrated a total team effort.”

The aunt agreed, praising them for how "caring, compassionate, thorough and quick they were.

"I am so thankful we live in Lyndhurst & are aided and protected by the BEST!!!!" she said.

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