New Jersey

Mourners Pay Respects at Wake for 5 Children Killed in Tragic NJ Fire

The fire ripped through a three-story home July 13 in Union City, and in subsequent days five children died from their injuries

What to Know

  • A wake for the five children who died in the tragic apartment fire in New Jersey earlier this month will be held Tuesday
  • The fire ripped through a three-story home July 13, and in subsequent days five children died from their injuries; four were siblings
  • A New Jersey city says it will pay for the funerals of five children who died in the raging apartment fire

A wake was held Tuesday for the five children killed in a raging apartment fire earlier this month. 

Hundreds lined up at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church through the day to pay respects to the five children who died in the July 13 fire in Union City, four of whom were siblings: 2-year-old Jason Gonzalez; 4-year-old Shamira Lopez; 5-year-old Mayli Wood; 7-year-old Christian Josue Mendez; and 13-year-old Jose Felipe Tejada.

One police officer said he's never seen anything so tragic in his 22 years on the job.

"I feel so bad for the family, very bad," mourner Carmen Sanchez said. 

"I didn't know them, but to me it's like a family. God said love each other like that, so that's how I feel," she said.

Dignitaries were also in attendance, including the governor, mayor and Cardinal Joseph Tobin.

Leber Funeral Home director Jim Leber said, "It's difficult. This is the toughest thing I've handled. Unfortunately, we'vd had children pass away from fires but to have four members of one family and their cousin, it's just absolutely devastating." 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

City officials said the building was zoned for two residential units and one commercial unit, but the landlord did not conform. The landlord now faces $60,000 in fines and about a dozen building and fire code violations, with more to come. 

Union City Mayor Brian Stack tells it's the city's duty to rally around the families and offer support, including paying for funeral expenses. The funeral will be on Wednesday.

Stack also says the city has ordered 10,000 smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors for residents who need them; they can be picked up at the mayor's office. 

The city will pay for the funeral expenses through the Union City Fire Victims Fund, which has raised over $43,400.

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