A 39-year-old mother and her five children jumped from a third story window to escape the fire that was consuming their apartment early Wednesday morning, reports say. The mother and her children had moved into the Newark, New Jersey apartment earlier in the week, and their power had yet to be turned on. While waiting for their PSE&G appointment — scheduled for Wednesday — the family was using candles to light the home.
Felicia Avent lives in the building and describes the night to NBC News. “It happened so fast,” Avent said. “I heard yelling, ‘Help my kids, help my kids.’ I grabbed my own kids. I was getting out of there.”
Tahonda Martin, the mother of five, told NBC New York, “I kept waking up, and I’m coughing and coughing, and I just woke up. And when I woke up, I saw nothing but smoke.” A preliminary investigation reports that the fire, which was allegedly started by accident, was most likely caused by a candle in the bathroom. As flames and smoke engulfed the apartment, the mother and her children were forced to open the window and jump to the ground as there are no fire escapes in the South Ocean Avenue building.
The eldest daughter, 17, made the first jump, breaking her toes as she landed on the concrete sidewalk three stories below the window. Surveillance footage records her wave and call for help as she sits on the ground. Passersby soon gathered to help catch the remaining children, ages 6, 8, 9, and 14. Martin jumped last. Six-year-old Taniyah Martin described feeling “scared” as she leaped, and 9-year-old brother Yazir said he was “afraid at first.” He added that he “thought nobody was gonna catch me.”
Officials have determined the fire to be an accident. The family was later able to return to the apartment to see what was salvageable. The fire did not spread to any other buildings.
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