4 Dead, Including Teen and Infant, After Fire Tears Through N.J. Home: ‘An Unspeakable Tragedy’

Four people have died, including a teenager and an infant, after a fire tore through a two-story home on the Jersey Shore.

Emergency crews arrived to the scene on Buttonwood Drive in Lacey Township on Tuesday afternoon after receiving a report about “a structure fire with entrapment” at around 12:30 p.m. local time, according to a press release from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

Emergency personnel reportedly found the building “fully engulfed” in flames in the Lanoka Harbor section of the township, the prosecutor’s office said. 

Five people were trapped inside the two-story residence, but only 67-year-old Brenda Wright was able to be rescued from the back of the building. She was later transported to Community Medical Center, where she is in stable condition.

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Crews attempted to rescue the four other victims but were eventually forced to evacuate the building. The roof of the structure ultimately collapsed.

Officials identified the victims as Jennifer Wright, 39, and Alaina Wright, 34. A 14-year-old female and a 4-month-old infant also died.

All four victims “were occupants of the residence” that burned down on Tuesday, prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said in the release on Wednesday.

The fire started “on the porch on the west side of the structure,” according to an initial investigation by the Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, per the OCPO.

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Officials are not ruling out “improperly discarded smoking material” as the cause of the fire. However, the incident “has been ruled accidental,” according to Billhimer.

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“This is an unspeakable tragedy, and our prayers are with the loved ones of these victims,” he added.

One neighbor told ABC affiliate WPVI-TV that she heard “a large explosion” and her dogs began to bark shortly before realizing the house was quickly going up in flames.

“We came out and everything was just black smoke,” Alicia Kemp told the outlet. “There were more explosions, maybe seven other ones after that. It was awful.”

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A second neighbor, Robert Juska, told CBS affiliate WCBS-TV that he sprinted toward the burning home after hearing “screaming.” He attempted to help rescue the 67-year-old, who seemingly injured herself while trying to go back in to save her family.

“She was coming out of the top window. She jumped down, but she snapped her leg,” Juska claimed. After she “passed out on the ground by the door,” Juska said he and others “picked her up and carried her out” of the burning building.

“She was telling us there were four more people in the house and I was like, ‘Who?’ And she was like, ‘the kids,'” the neighbor added.

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A third neighbor, who has not been named, told News 12 New Jersey that he used a cinder block to bust an air conditioning unit out of place so he could enter the house. Getting inside, however, proved to be difficult.

“I looked and you couldn’t get entry. There was so much stuff in the house,” the neighbor explained. “When I kicked the back door, it wouldn’t even open.”

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Per News 12, flowers and candles were spotted on the curb in front of the home on Wednesday.

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