Husband of deceased officer says wife died in failed attempt to save daughter in house fire
A New Jersey law enforcement officer died trying to save his young daughter from their burning home in the town of Hazlet, according to her husband.
Jacqueline Montanaro and her six-year-old daughter Madelyn died in the house fire early Saturday morning, NJ.com reported. Her husband William Montanaro and their eight-year-old daughter Elena survived.
The family were woken by fire alarms around midnight on Saturday morning, and Mr Montanaro rushed to find his wife, two daughters and dog to help them out to safety.
He, Jacqueline and their 8-year-old walked through the house engulfed in smoke, making it difficult to see, before finally exiting. But Madelyn was still home, so Mr. and Mrs. Montanaro ran inside to pick up their daughter.
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“When I rushed into the house for Madelyn, I was enveloped in an enormous amount of thick, hot black smoke,” Mr Montanaro said in a statement released by his brother.
“Without hesitation, Jackie then charged the love of a mother and the courage of a police officer to fuel her attempt to save our daughter,” he continued.
Mr. Montanaro said his wife worked as a US Customs and Border Protection Supervisory Officer at Newark Liberty International Airport.
As smoke continued to fill the house, Mr. Montanaro managed to return outside. However, his wife and youngest daughter failed to pull through.
“I am heartbroken. I have lost the love of my life – my beautiful wife, Jackie – and my sweet, loving and brave little girl, Madelyn,” Mr Montanaro said, adding that “Jackie was a hero.”
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Ms Montanaro and Madelyn were taken to hospital for treatment in critical condition before they both died from their injuries.
It is unclear what started the fire and the Monmouth County Attorney’s Office told local media the incident is under investigation.
Mr Montanaro said in his statement that he was now focused on helping his surviving daughter receive “the support and help she will need, so that we can rebuild our lives together”.
He also said the family dog was still missing. Mr Montanaro was searching Sunday with an organization called Hound Hunters for the Goldendoodle.
“The search continues for our beloved dog, Duchess,” he said. “Thank you to our neighbors and the dozens of people, the Hazlet Police Department, and law enforcement in surrounding communities who lobbied and continue to lobbied to find her.”
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A GoFundMe page for the family launched by Customs United Service Alliance, Ms Montanaro’s customs union, raised more than $200,000 on Monday morning.
“We cannot express in words how tragic the loss of this incredible supervisor, colleague, friend, mom and hero is to our community,” the fundraiser said. “Jackie’s ability to do any job at work was second only to her love and devotion to her family back home.”
The Monmouth County Council of Boy Scouts Mr Montanaro works for is also raising donations for their Alumni Disaster Fund to help meet the needs of the family.
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