Exclusive: Father who dropped toddler out window during NJ fire describes harrowing experience

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Wednesday, March 9, 2022
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A father dropped his 3-year-old son out a second-story window to first responders as a fire raged through an apartment complex in New Jersey Monday. Anthony Johnson has the exclusive interview

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A father and son are finally feeling a little better after escaping a frightening Monday morning apartment fire.

The flames broke out just after 8 a.m. at Building 1 the South Ridge Apartments on Northumberland Way in South Brunswick.

Dramatic video shows Hamat Zaghloun coming to the bedroom window and then disappearing back into the apartment as the officers shouted from the ground for him to hurry.

Then reappeared with the toddler.

"When he went back in, I didn't know what he was going back in for, and that kind of concerns us when something like that happens," Fire Chief Chris Perez said. "So luckily, he came back fairly quickly with the child."

He and his son had been asleep when the fire began and they both woke up when they smelled smoke.

"The fact that he was sleeping, and we pounded on those doors," Fire Chief Chris Perez said. "I mean, we were making a lot of noise."

Zaghloun said he saw the cops outside the window and that is when he made the decision to drop his son from the second floor window into the waiting arms of police officers below.

"I can't go outside into the hall to get any help or get outside," Zaghloun said. "I saw the window and I opened it. And first I take care of my son. After going over to the window the police officer he called the people and he helped me"

The officers were able to catch the child and bring him to safety.

ALSO READ | South Brunswick community rallies to help apartment fire victims

"It's a lot, because you're trying to put yourself in his shoes to think, hey, you're dropping your kid down," Sergeant William Merkler said. "I can't even imagine what was going through his mind."

Zaghloun said when he opened the bedroom door to escape the smoke was so thick, he knew the only way out was through the bedroom window.

"There was no other way out," Zaghloun said.

Zaghloun climbed headfirst out the window and officers were able to help him land safely.

The fire was placed under control by 11 a.m.

Four people -- the father, son, a firefighter and a police officer -- were all treated for minor injuries.

"I mean this it what we signed up for," Patrolman First Class Ryan Bartunek said. "This is the exciting part of the job, that you want to be able to help people and do the right thing. Luckily we helped save those people."

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