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Originally published Friday, March 21, 2014 at 8:55 PM

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4 dead, 8 injured in New Jersey shore motel fire

The two-story, wooden Mariner’s Cove Motor Inn in New Jersey had become home for some people still displaced after Hurricane Sandy.


The Associated Press

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POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. — A fire Friday destroyed a New Jersey shore motel that was housing people displaced by Superstorm Sandy, killing four people and injuring eight, authorities said.

The blaze erupted at the wooden Mariner’s Cove Motor Inn in this popular summer resort town about 5:30 a.m., and flames were shooting out of the building by the time firefighters arrived. At least one person leapt from a second-floor window to escape.

Three people were injured critically. Other injuries included broken bones.

Authorities said all remaining occupants had been accounted for after hours of visiting hospitals, motels and other locations to track down other survivors.

The victims were identified as men, but the prosecutor’s office said no positive identifications had been made and the cause of the blaze was unknown.

The blaze was the second major fire at the Jersey shore in seven months, after a September blaze that destroyed about a third of the boardwalk in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. The boardwalk had just been rebuilt after Sandy. It is being rebuilt — again.

Survivors of Friday’s motel fire described a chaotic scene.

Peter Kuch said he smelled smoke and opened his door to find a lounge area engulfed in flames. He dialed 911, and by the time the call was completed, flames were at his door and licking at the windows of his second-floor unit. He jumped.

“I had to, there was no other way out,” he said.

He suffered a sprained ankle but said he was otherwise all right.

Joe Frystock was one of the Sandy victims who was staying at the motel, which like many others in this resort, relies on people seeking low-cost rentals during the slow winter season. His home in nearby Brick Township took on 6 feet of water during the October 2012 storm, and the motel was the latest in a series of temporary homes for him.

“I lost everything — again — but I’m alive,” he said. “I only got out with my insulin kit, but this is what keeps me alive, so I guess I’m lucky.”

Frystock, who is diabetic, said he woke up to the cracking sound of wood burning, and saw an orange glow. “People were yelling: ‘Help me! Help me!’ There was lots of screaming,” he said. “A woman in the unit next to me, they pulled her from a bathtub, but I don’t know how anyone could have survived those flames. The entire second floor was engulfed, from one end to another.”

That woman, who had sought refuge in a shower and kept the water running on her while waiting to be rescued, was pulled from the bathroom by one firefighter, who handed her out a window to another firefighter, who carried her to safety. The woman was taken to a hospital about an hour away that specializes in treating severe burns, which Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said she had suffered.

Lloyd Barker, another motel resident who safely escaped, watched as firefighters rescued her.

“She was screaming, there was fire over her head,” he said. “She was all black, from head to toe. It was chaos.”

Shawn Wardell said a strong wind was fanning the flames across the second floor of the motel, where he had been staying with his cousin and grandparents.

“We got my grandfather out ‘cause he’s disabled, and by that time, the whole second floor was just engulfed in flames,” he said. “People were yelling and screaming.”

The fire was brought under control shortly after 7 a.m.

Residents gave conflicting accounts of whether they heard smoke detectors or fire alarms sounding. Some said they heard nothing, while others said an alarm was blaring as the flames swept across the top of the building.

The Ocean County Sheriff’s Department said one of the injured included one of its detectives, who suffered a severe leg injury, including broken bones, at the fire scene.

Investigators determined about 40 people were staying at the motel when the fire began.



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