3 children and an adult killed in New Jersey store fire after gate wouldn’t open
A five-alarm fire tore through a commercial building in northern New Jersey on Monday night, killing three young girls and one adult after a metal gate they tried to escape through would not open, according to a city spokesperson.
Kelly Martins, public information officer for the city of Elizabeth, confirmed the deaths in a phone call on Tuesday and said that ten fire companies responded to the blaze. An additional victim was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition, Martins said.
A fire report came in at roughly 6 p.m. Monday and local police were first to respond as the blaze quickly engulfed a two-story commercial building at 867 Elizabeth Avenue, in the northern New Jersey city’s downtown area.
The downstairs business was Dollar & Party, and the upstairs business was a furniture store, Martins said. Based on a preliminary investigation, the fire is believed to have been sparked by a faulty soda dispenser on the ground floor and quickly spread upstairs, where all the victims were located.
At first the victims attempted to escape through a rear staircase, but smoke was too heavy. They then tried to exit through something that may have appeared to be an emergency exit that was blocked by a metal gate, Martins said.
“It’s an old building, so it looks like it might have been a fire escape,” Martin said. “When they opened the door, there’s a metal gate that they couldn’t get through. The police responded first — they tried to get them out by breaking through the gate and they could not. When fire department came, they were able to get through the gate and they pulled two victims from the fire, one adult and one child, and one child was taken out of the front.”
The three victims were medevacked to a local hospital where the two children, Daniela Marquez, 8, and Elizabeth Correas, 11, later succumbed to their injuries.
36 year old Elizabeth resident Merlyn Vasquez remains in the hospital in critical condition as of Tuesday afternoon, Martins said.
On Tuesday morning, after firefighters were able to enter the building, they found two additional bodies.
Martins said that while their identities have yet to be confirmed, investigators believe they are the two additional people who were unaccounted for after yesterday’s blaze: Paolo Marquez, age 10, and Candida Martinez-Del Reyes, age 41.
The two deceased Marquez sisters are the children of Merlyn Vasquez, Martins said.