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3 dead, 8 injured in Jersey shore motel fire


By Wayne Parry

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. (AP) -- A fire early Friday destroyed a Jersey shore motel that was housing people displaced by Superstorm Sandy, killing three people, injuring eight others and leaving 10 unaccounted for, authorities said.

Officials weren't ruling out the possibility that the 10 had escaped before the fire engulfed the Mariner's Cove Motor Inn in this popular summer resort town at around 5:30 a.m. The wooden building was overwhelmed by flames by the time firefighters arrived, and at least one person leaped from a second-floor window to escape. Three people were injured critically.

Investigators interviewed motel management, and determined about 40 people were staying there when the fire broke out, Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said. The motel's office was destroyed and many records were lost, he said, making an accurate accounting difficult.

Coronato said authorities hope the missing hotel occupants had simply gone elsewhere to stay with relatives, or to another motel, and asked them to check in with police.

"We are trying to make sure they are safe and unharmed," he said.

Survivors described a chaotic scene of flames, smoke and screaming.

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

He decided to jump.

"I had to, there was no other way out," he said. "My window was only open an inch and flames were already starting to come through it. There just was no other choice."

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.

Frystock, who is diabetic, said he frequently has to use the bathroom at night. He woke up to popping sounds, which he initially thought was gunfire.

"It was the sound of timbers burning upstairs," he said. "I looked out and saw that orange glow, and there was no mistaking what it was. People were yelling: `Help me! Help me!' There was lots of screaming. 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 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 down a ladder to safety. The woman was taken to St. Barnabas Medical Center, a hospital about an hour north that specializes in treating severe burns, which Coronato said she had suffered.

Denise Dougherty, the motel's housekeeper, said she was awakened by screams.

"There were people yelling, `Help me! Help me!' and other people yelling, `Jump! Jump!' It was terrible."

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."

Investigators were looking into what caused the fire.

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

Authorities did not immediately identify the victims. Coronato said all three of the dead were males.

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.

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shipsigns March 21 2014 at 4:42 PM

Jersey cant catch a break

Flag Reply +4 rate up
ChingOW Mango March 21 2014 at 9:46 PM

It's sad how things happen - how we pass through point A to get to B - sometimes for a very joyous reason and other times to meet our death. Very sad story.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
freebird12315 March 21 2014 at 8:58 PM

WHAT A SHAME. MY HEART GOES OUT TO EVERYONE WHO WAS STAYING THERE AND THOSE WHO LOST THIER LOVED ONES.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
The Canoli King March 21 2014 at 6:07 PM

Very sad story ,and I'm very sorry to hear of this tragic event. These poor people had been through enough,and now this.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
WELCOME KAREN March 21 2014 at 1:06 PM

OMG those poor people-- having to go thru yet another tragedy. May GOD be with you and give you strength!

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
welcome bozo WELCOME KAREN March 21 2014 at 4:36 PM

very confusing, you first say "OMG" then you say "may god be with you" someone is sure confused about gods role in what happens. personally i would blame washington before heaven, it makes more sense.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
dhr62 March 21 2014 at 11:51 AM

AFter all they went through with sandy and now this? Not fair

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
petey dhr62 March 21 2014 at 12:49 PM

Let's see how Christie can try and politicize this to his advantage.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Julie /Spookqeen March 22 2014 at 1:12 AM

A fire is my biggest fear. The one thing that terrifies me. Even reading stories like this scare me. So sad for the victims, already displaced and now, yet another home gone. Condolences to the families and freinds of those not so lucky to get out.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
hnoss802 March 22 2014 at 1:54 AM

Where was the sprinkler sytem ?, or was there one.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Terry and Mandy March 21 2014 at 12:37 PM

So many older motels and smaller hotels just can't afford to make all the necessary upgrades for safety until the money starts rolling in during their season. Very sad that people had to die. My condolences to their families.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
petey Terry and Mandy March 21 2014 at 12:51 PM

Funny how you can determine that from a tiny story that does not mention how the fire started or any other important details.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
Lonamari petey March 21 2014 at 12:58 PM

Funny how you showed no concern for the people in the fire but made sure you called them on their lack of knowledge. For all you know they own a motel or know someone who does. People are getting weirder and weirder.

Flag +7 rate up
dirtyrat07 March 21 2014 at 12:26 PM

Christie's hotel buddies...

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
badmanjack dirtyrat07 March 21 2014 at 12:48 PM

you are beyond stupid

Flag Reply +7 rate up
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