Wrong address delay blamed for death of 6-year-old in house fire

Posted at 5:42 PM, Jan 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-04 17:42:22-05

A police captain in Lakewood, New Jersey told PIX 11 his officers were delayed six to eight minutes in responding to a fatal house fire at 644 Stirling Avenue, because they couldn’t understand the hysterical mother’s directions on her cell phone call for help.  The fire killed a six year old boy, the middle child of her three sons.

“We got a 911 call. Normally, if it was a landline, we’d get the address automatically,” said Captain Paul Daly of Lakewood Police.  “However, this call came in from Monmouth County, and it probably bounced off a cell phone tower there.  The woman was hysterical, trying to tell us where she was.”

The 911 dispatcher initially sent police to 644 Somerset Avenue, three blocks from the actual fire scene. The correct address was on Stirling.

Ralph Ventura lives next to the fire scene.

“I was in a dead sleep, and I heard someone banging on my door,” Ventura said.  Ventura told PIX he recognized the children’s father, whom he only knows as Benjamin, desperately seeking a ladder. “He was grabbing whatever he could and smashing the windows,” Ventura recalled.

Ventura’s mother told PIX she saw flames shooting out from the back of the bi-level house, where a grease fire apparently started in the kitchen, next to the bedroom where the six year old was sleeping.

A volunteer fireman across the street provided cops with a ladder, and they tried to reach the boy in the 2nd floor rear bedroom, but the flames pushed them back.

The hysterical mother of the boys was out front with her youngest, who is two years old, while her oldest, eight years old, was shivering in the bitter cold, wearing only his underpants, after suffering burns to his body and also internally.

When the Fire Department arrived, firefighters retrieved the lifeless body of the six year old boy from the bedroom. He was later pronounced dead at Kimball Medical Center. The eight year old boy was being treated for serious injuries at Monmouth Medical Center. The parents and the two year old received oxygen, after suffering smoke inhalation.

The family had only moved into the rental home last summer. On Friday, Christmas tinsel and a wreath were still decorating their front porch, at a house now filled with sorrow.