An eyewitness said the baby was only wearing diapers.
"She just called me over and said there was a baby in the water", Monte Campbell said.
It was unclear how long the baby had been lying there. A man had jumped into the river to perform CPR on the baby.
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The two witnesses separately called 911 after it was reported that the baby was discovered in the waters off lower Manhattan at about 4 p.m. Sunday, sources said.
"My mom, she was out here and she was kind of just looking in the water, and she calls my dad over and says 'there's a baby in the water!'" Austin told ABC 7 in NY. "They kept asking if any parents were around but it was just the baby out there in the water, nobody around", said one witness at the scene.
"It's little head was under the water but his little legs were over", the Oklahoma tourist told CBS2. A medical examiner will determine cause of death, the AP reported.
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The baby's parents were not on scene. She said the baby was floating about 30 feet offshore. The child is believed to have been approximately 8 months old.
Chiropractor Monte Campbell said his wife, Diana Campbell, first noticed the baby.
Police arrived just minutes later and brought the baby onto the pedestrian walkway where they continued CPR until EMS responded.
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The child was then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. "I'm from Oklahoma, we're from a small town with like 60,000 people".