A 39-year-old woman and her five children, including three younger than the age of 10, were forced to jump from the third floor of a burning building in Newark as flames closed in around them early Wednesday.
The fire erupted in an apartment building with no fire escapes on South Orange Avenue shortly after midnight, officials say. A preliminary investigation suggests the blaze happened by accident, authorities said.
Good Samaritans on the ground were able to catch the family members as they jumped.
Six-year-old Taniyah Martin described feeling "scared" as she leaped. And her 9-year-old brother Yazir said he was "afraid at first because I thought nobody was gonna catch me."
Tahonda Martin and her children, ages 6, 8, 9, 14 and 17, had moved into their apartment earlier this week and did not yet have electricity. They were using candles while they waited for their PSE&G appointment, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, and one in the bathroom likely started the fire.
"I kept waking up, and I'm coughing and coughing, and I just woke up. And when I woke up, I saw nothing but smoke," said Tahonda Martin.
All six of the victims were treated at University Hospital and are OK. One of the teenage daughters suffered broken toes in the fall.
Felicia Avent, who lives in the building that was on fire, described a frightening scene in which residents, including a family she says recently moved in, leaped from a window on the top floor.
"It happened so fast," Avent said. "I heard yelling, 'Help my kids, help my kids.' I grabbed my own kids. I was getting out of there."
The blaze did not appear to spread to other buildings.
Later, the family gathered back inside the apartment to see what they could still salvage. And the mother gave thanks to total strangers who made the catches.
"I just want to thank everyone that was there who helped catch my children," said Tahonda Martin.