A fire took place at about 5:30 a.m. this morning at a Jersey Shore motel that housed some Hurricane Sandy victims. Officials said that their houses still remain uninhabitable nearly a year and a half after the storm.
According to authorities, three people have died, eight are injured (three critically), and 10 are unaccounted for. Officials aren’t ruling out the possibility that the 10 people had managed to escape before the two-story Mariner’s Cove Motor Inn was overwhelmed by flames.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato stated that investigators talked with motel management, and determined that approximately 40 people were staying there when the fire started. Many records were lost due to the motel’s office being destroyed, he said, “making an accurate accounting difficult.”
“Survivors have described a chaotic scene of flames, smoke and screaming, with at least one person leaping from a second-floor window.”
Peter Kulch said he smelled smoke, and when he opened his door he found a lounge area engulfed in flames. He had then called 911, and by the time the call ended, the flames were at the door of his second-floor room. There was nothing else for him to do other than jump, and he suffered a sprained ankle but was otherwise okay.
Shawn Wardel, who was on the first floor of the motel with his family members, said his grandmother woke up other people in the family to warn them of the fire, and the family and cops had to get his disabled grandfather out of the place. The fire had started on the other side of the motel, and wind blew the fire to the side they were on. When he came out of his room, he could only see flames, he said.
Officials are currently in a search-and-recover mode, and as soon as the recovery is done, the investigation into the cause of the fire will begin in earnest, Coronato said.