A New Jersey mother died after rushing back into her burning home in an attempt Saturday to save her 6-year-old daughter’s life.
Both Jackie Montanaro, 40, and 6-year-old Madelyn were killed by the flames that encompassed their Hazlet home as the family slept around 12:30 a.m., WABC reported.
William Montanaro, his wife Jackie, and their daughter Elena, 8, were all able to escape their burning home, but 6-year-old Madelyn was nowhere to be seen.
Both William and Jackie rushed back into the home in an attempt to save her, but neither Jackie nor Madelyn made it out alive.
William said that Jackie, who worked as a Customs and Border Protection officer, was a “hero,” according to a statement obtained by WABC.
“When I rushed back into the house for Madelyn I became enveloped with a massive amount of thick, hot black smoke. Without hesitation, Jackie then charged in with a mother’s love and the courage of a police officer fueling her attempt to save our daughter,” the grieving father said.
The family’s dog, a Goldendoodle named Duchess, also died in the tragedy.
“I am heartbroken. I have lost the love of my life – my beautiful wife, Jackie – and my sweet, loving, spunky little girl, Madelyn,” his statement read. “We are extremely devastated Duchess is no longer with us, but we must remember she is now at rest alongside Jackie and Madelyn.”
Hazlet Deputy Mayor Peter Terranova said that the township, located about an hour outside of New York City, has come together in support of the family following the tragedy.
“This township is like a family and when a neighbor is hurting, a family member is hurting,” Terranova said.
According to Terranova, the family was “very popular in town” and “very helpful, [a] very community-knit family and we are all grieving. It is a tremendous loss.”
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said the fire does not appear to be suspicious in nature, though the cause of the blaze has not yet been determined.