Grandmother, 4 children dead in South Plainfield fire

February 23, 2012 8:29:23 PM PST
Five people, including four children, were killed when they became trapped in a fire in a large two-family home in New Jersey.

Home video taken just after 3 a.m. shows the 150-year-old farmhouse being devoured by fire.

Flames tore through the first floor and heavy black smoke consumed the second floor where a grandmother and four of her grandchildren were trapped.

"We did have guys get in through the front door but with the fire so hot they were pushed back," said Deputy Chief Lawrence DelNegro, South Plainfield Fire Department.

But they weren't done fighting, and risked their own lives to get to the children who were screaming for help.

"Now mind you the first floor was engulfed in flames. All the windows have fire coming out of them they crawl past the fire on the first floor to get to the second floor," DelNegro said.

But they were pushed back again by flames, as hard as they tried, no rescues were made.

"One of the kids tried to run back into the house but was stopped by a policeman," said Isabelle Scavino, an eyewitness.

It was a chaotic, horrific scene, with everyone trying to save those inside, and no one was able to.

A grandmother and four children ages 12, 7, 4 and 2 all died on the second floor.

Ivan Mata's 7-year-old daughter goes to school with one of the children who died.

"It's horrible my kids woke up crying," Mata said, "Very difficult to explain. We will just pray and see what we can do for the families."

"I don't know what to do, I don't know," Greg Davis, the victim's father said.

Looking up at the fire scene on Clinton Avenue, it's hard for anyone to make sense out of this loss.

Especially for the father of 7-year-old Tyler Davis, one of the four children killed in the fire.

His dad says he always wanted custody of Tyler, but never got anywhere.

"I've been going to the courts with no real response and this is the results," Davis said. The children's grandmother, Ann Jefferson, was trying to hold her daughter's family together until early Thursday morning when fire tore the house apart.

Jefferson was seen in church in Plainfield every Sunday.

Wednesday night, friends say, she was practicing for an Easter program with her 12-year-old granddaughter Alize.

Both of them are now dead.

"When you see Ms. Anne, you saw her granddaughter, where Ms. Anne was at, Alize was attached to her," said Dietra Jackson, the victim's friend.

Ann, Alize and Tyler were not the only ones who perished.

Also, Ann's grandsons Christopher, age 3, and Elijah, age 2, also both died according to their church pastor.

The children's mother, Natalie Jefferson, survived the fire.

Also among the survivors were her tiny baby, Angel, son Jaquan who's 15, and 8-year-old Jordan, who ran out of this house on fire.

Dietra Jackson, who lives on the other side of this house barely escaped, but helped to save him.

"I grabbed him, I took him to the dirt, I rolled him, his whole shirt, he was just, on fire," Jackson said.

Now, her family is homeless but lucky to be alive they say as those who knew Ann Jefferson remember a caring mother, grandmother and friend.

"Anything you ask her to do, she would do it, you know," said Alma Watkins, victim's friend.

Three of the children who died attended a school in South Plainfield, where grief counseling will be provided.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said police and the prosecutor's office were investigating the cause of the fire.

Two volunteer firefighters received minor injuries when they were involved in a two-vehicle crash en route to the fire, Kaplan said.

The cause of the fire, which had the most fatalities in the town's history, was not immediately known.


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