Anthony G. Attrino
NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.
Three children and one adult who were shopping in a second-floor furniture store in Elizabeth died Monday night after a fire broke out inside a store below them, authorities said.
The five-alarm fire erupted about 6 p.m. inside the Dollar & Party store in the 800 block of Elizabeth Avenue, city officials said.
The victims tried to escape but were unable to because a door leading to a stairwell was covered with a metal gate that was locked, officials said.
“They tried to get out through a rear stairway but it was covered with smoke and fire,” Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage said during a press conference Tuesday.
The victims then tried to open another door but were thwarted by the gate. “When they opened that back door, there was a metal cage and there was no exit,” Bollwage said.
Three city police officers placed a ladder up to the second floor of the building and tried to move the gate “with their bare hands but that was not possible,” the mayor said.
The victims who died were identified as Daniela Marquez, 8, her friend Elizabeth Correas, 11. Two other bodies found Tuesday morning were believed to be Paola Marquez, 10, and Candida Martinez-Del Reyes, 41, city officials said.
One other person, identified as Merlyn Vasquez, 36, was hospitalized in critical condition on Tuesday, officials said.
Investigators believe the fire started inside a soda machine or a cooler inside the Dollar & Party store, Bollwage said.
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