HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) — A mother of two is dead after her rental home on the 1800 block of South Broad Street in Hamilton, New Jersey collapsed just before 7 a.m. Monday morning.
Authorities have identified her as 38-year-old Tika Justice. The woman’s two daughters, ages 20 and 16, survived the collapse and are in stable condition at Capital Health.
“They found the deceased victim on top of the daughter, the 16-year-old, who was subsequently removed,” said Hamilton Fire Capt. Ferdinand Mather.
Mather says it took an hour and 40 minutes to get all three victims out.
“I’ve been in the area for 18 years so I’ve always seen this house passing by going to different places,” said Tabatha Vassey, who lives nearby. “Just overnight, it’s gone.”
James Feig, who was riding by on a bike when he saw the aftermath of the collapse, says he tried to comfort the older daughter. The 20-year-old was waist-deep in debris until first responders arrived.
“It’s devastating. Like being in a war zone,” Feig told Eyewitness News.
Investigators say that woman was able to make a 911 call.
“She was half in tears. So was I,” he said. “She was buried in rubble and it’s just a sad thing to watch.”
“She was a very hardworking woman,” said one neighbor who knew Justice. “She was a single parent, she raised her two daughters and it’s just a shame.”
Neighbors remember seeing Justice ride the train to New York where she worked at a bank to make ends meet for her kids.
At this point, investigators say it’s unclear what caused the collapse, though it does not appear to be gas-related.
“As with any house collapse, that’s the rumor that the house exploded. At this time, we do not believe that to be the case given that the house had a pancake type collapse and it didn’t explode outward,” Mather said.
PSE&G shut off gas in the area after the collapse, which is standard procedure after such incidents.
Township officials say there were no reported structural problems with the property.