DNA testing needed to ID victims of Point Pleasant Beach fire

Matt Kozar has the exclusive.
March 23, 2014 9:11:43 AM PDT
DNA testing and other methods will need to be used to identify the four people killed in a fire at a Jersey shore motel that housed some victims of Superstorm Sandy, authorities said Sunday.

The Ocean County medical examiner's office hoped to complete its work on the identifications early this week, said Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

Fire investigators are still working to determine how and exactly where the fire started, Della Fave said.

Autopsies are being conducted on the four men who died. Police will then need to contact the families before the victim's names are released.

Eight other people were injured in the blaze Friday at the Mariner's Cove Motor Inn.

Investigators have been sifting through what remains of the motel to try and determine what caused the fire.

CLICK HERE to see images from the scene.

Eyewitness News reporter Matt Kozar talked exclusively with one of the firefighters, who was praised for what he did to help prevent an even greater tragedy.

Once the call came in, firefighters knew to go in to search and rescue mode. They barreled through the heat and flames, and they listened ? that is when they heard someone on the second floor banging on the wall for help.

"I climbed up through the ladder, and I told her through the window to back up, so I could break the window. I pulled the pane out, and asked her to come on out to the ladder with me," said First Lt. Mike Ryan of the Point Pleasant Beach Fire Department, "I maneuvered her through the window, and assister her out the window, and Firefighter Leech came up the ladder and cradled her, and brought her down"

It was a rescue First Lieutenant Ryan and firefighters with the Point Pleasant Beach Fire Department will never forget. They were the first ones on the scene Friday morning as fire swallowed the Mariner's Cove Motor Inn.

There were 40 people sleeping inside at the time of the blaze. All but four got out alive.

With the fire raging, First Lieutenant Ryan says firefighters maneuvered through thick black smoke and flames for as long as they could, but eventually they had to pull back.

"There's a certain point in time where we just can't go in. It's unsafe, the roof starts to collapse, and when a room flashes, even our protective equipment isn't going to protect us very long," Ryan says, "you're talking a matter of seconds.

On Saturday, investigators combed through debris as they searched for a cause, shoveling soot and ash out of what were once motel rooms ? rooms Ryan and the other firefighters searched frantically.

"It was a team effort, It wasn't any one guy ? without everyone there, without everyone assisting, she is not out of that room," says Ryan.

The Fire Chief tells Eyewitness News that the balconies on the second floor burned away, which made rescues that much harder.

Officials say it took about two hours for the fire to be fully contained.