EDGEWATER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Video of a heart pounding rescue in New Jersey has gone viral all over the country.
On Tuesday, CBS2 heard from a child who found herself trapped by flames and was forced to jump as authorities continued to probe what sparked a fast-moving fire Monday in Edgewater.
The fire broke out just before 7 p.m. on the first floor of the two-story building on Old River Road.
Video from the scene showed children trapped on the fiery balcony and screaming for help as bystanders rushed to get ladders to them.
12-year-old Nina Twomey showed several burns on her arm she suffered as she anxiously awaited rescue.
“The fire got closer and closer,” she said. “There was no time.”
Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland said he was right across the street when he saw the fire.
“You heard the screams from around the block, so that was probably my first thought to get everybody out of the building at that point,” he said. “Me and a buddy of mine ran over there and we got there just as those kids were coming off that balcony. It was really a traumatic scene.”
The ladders fell and eventually the people above began to drop and jump down to escape the fire. Cell phone video captured Ismail Demir reaching up to help those jumping.
Nina says she was holding on for dear life as the ladders fell.
“A lot of people were trying to help but the ladders fell,” she said. “I was trying to hold on but I ended up falling.”
Nina, along with six other girls and two instructors were on the second floor at the Professional Arts Academy. Owner Maureen Straub says she’s devastated.
“Yesterday was a dark day but we’re going to show people the show must go on,” she said.
Stories of heroism emerged from what could have been a tragedy.
Edgewater Police Sgt. James Dalton and bystander Tony Nehmi then worked together to climb a ladder on the first story roof as thick black smoke and flames came shooting out the side of the building.
“It was the scariest moment of my career, to be quite honest,” said Dalton.
In the chaos, the two broke the window to the second floor dance studio to rescue the girls.
“We looked up there, were two girls on the second floor banging on the window,” said Dalton. “We couldn’t do it quick enough. Once we got them out, they told us they were the last two people in there. Big sigh of relief.”
Nina’s father questioned the safety of having only one exit.
“It’s unsettling, so hopefully in the future the town and whoever dictates codes will heed what could have happened here,” Tom Twomey said.
Mayor McPartland said as far as he knows, everything in the building is up to code. He adds, though, that he’ll wait for the investigation to play out.
At least five people were taken to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
“Thank God nobody was dead. That was our only concern,” said witness Ilker Kesiktas. “Little injuries, but we care about the lives of those kids.”
The structure houses five different businesses, including a car wash and a restaurant where authorities think the fire may have started.
“Thank you all for your support. We are completely devastated. We thank God our students & teachers are safe,” the Professional Arts Academy wrote on Facebook.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.