Heroic Teen Had Already Escaped, But Turned Around And Tried To Save Mom

ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A house fire in Rockaway Township early Friday morning claimed the lives of a mother and her 17-year-old son.

The blaze broke out sometime before 6 a.m. in the rear of the two-story home on Green Pond Road.

“The sky was all orange,” neighbor Joan Chovanec told 1010 WINS. “My husband said when he went to work this morning at the deli he could see the flames shooting out the upstairs windows and it sounded like firecrackers going off.”

“The whole upstairs was just engulfed in flames,” neighbor Carol Schutz told CBS 2’s John Slattery.

Killed in the fire was Pam Decker and her son, Dan, a senior at Morris Knolls High School. They were found in an upstairs bedroom, authorities said.

“He’s the nicest kid you’d every want to meet,” friend Max Berry said of the teen.

The teen was trying to escape the blaze with his father when he turned around and ran back inside to rescue his mother after hearing her scream for help from upstairs, neighbors said.

“He went back in to try to get his mom out,” said Towana Uhleman of the Rockaway Township Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary. “His mom was having problems getting out and he ran back in to get her out. It’s horrible.”

“I heard that he and his father made it out okay, but then he went back in for his mom, and it took a turn for the worse after that,” friend Ted Keeshen added.

“Heroic, if that actually happened. It’s heroic,” Berry said of his friend’s actions.

The father escaped but went into severe shock. He was taken to a nearby St. Clare’s Hospital, officials said.

Neighbors said the teen had a bright future ahead of him.

“He was to be successful. He was very polite with everybody and his father was looking forward for his son to be somebody,” said Salvatore Coppola, owner of the neighborhood pizza parlor. “Very nice people. Very nice people, no kidding. The kid, so beautiful and good in school.”

Authorities said the fire doesn’t appear to be suspicious. The cause is under investigation.

The fire appeared to have a good start on the volunteer fire company, which is located about a mile away. The home sits in an area with no fire hydrants, authorities said.

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