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Mother, 8-Year-Old Son Killed In NJ Fire

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ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A woman and her young child were killed in a fire Sunday night in Essex County, according to authorities.

The fire broke out at around 11:30 p.m. on Berkely Avenue in Orange. A passerby who noticed the flames called 911 and banged on the door to try to alert anyone inside, but got no response, authorities said.

“When we arrived, we found the building was completely sealed up and the companies forced the front door in and went inside to attack the fire,” said Orange Fire Director Michael Down. “Unfortunately, they found two victims.”

Tanji Dewberry, 37, and her 8-year-old son, Evan Soler, were killed in the blaze, authorities said.

Sources said it appears an electrical problem sparked the fire in the boy’s bedroom, where firefighters found both bodies, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported. Investigators believe Dewberry was trying to rescue her son.

Tanji Dewberry on WLNY 10/55's The Couch on March 29, 2013. (credit: WLNY)

Tanji Dewberry on WLNY 10/55’s The Couch on March 29, 2013. (credit: WLNY)

In March 2013, Dewberry appeared on WLNY TV 10/55’s “Live From The Couch” to talk about her book “Oh Fiddlesticks!” — which aims to help parents of children who have ADHD. Evan was diagnosed when he was 5 years old, but thriving.

“He’s doing amazing,” Dewberry had said during her appearance. “He was in the district spelling bee, he made the honor roll, so he’s doing phenomenal.”

Evan was also a star in the neighborhood, famous for his summertime lemonade stand.

“That little boy, he had a spirit in him, so I know he’s in heaven smiling because he was a wonderful kid,” neighbor Carol Hughes said.

Neighbor Julie Antoine said she was heartbroken.

“Mom was an outgoing mom, she did everything she could for this child,” she said. “He was outgoing, high honor student, very joyful. Had a beautiful heart.”

The boy’s father, Virgilio Soler, is in shock and said he can’t believe he’ll never see his son again, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported.

“I just feel empty, he was the world to me,” Soler said. “I don’t know if it’s something I’ll ever be able to overcome.”

Soler, who did not live with the boy and his mother, said he knows there were smoke detectors inside the home, but fire officials said it’s unclear if they were working.

Down said the fire is not considered suspicious, but the exact cause of the blaze is still unknown.

The investigation is ongoing.

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