A 38-year-old New Jersey mother lost her life saving her teenage daughter when their New Jersey house collapsed while they were inside on Monday morning
A 38-year-old New Jersey mother lost her life saving her teenage daughter when their New Jersey house collapsed while they were inside on Monday morning.
According to NBC New York, Tika Justice died and was found on top of her 16-year-old daughter — who survived — when firefighters, rescue teams and search dogs searched their three-story Mercer County, New Jersey, home. Authorities reportedly believe she was shielding the girl.
The Hamilton Police Division posted a statement on Facebook confirming that both the daughter — who also has a 20-year-old sister who survived the structural collapse — are in serious, but stable condition at Capital Health Regional Medical Center.
Justice, they added, died as a result of the collapse. The Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office is determining her cause of death.
Hamilton Police didn’t immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for additional information, but officials told NBC New York that the cause of the collapse didn’t appear to be gas related. The investigation into the collapse remains ongoing, NBC New York reported.
Justice’s brother, Brushan Davis, spoke to NBC New York and said that he wasn’t surprised by her selfless act.
“She’s that type of person,” he told the news outlet. “She’ll save her kid before she saves herself.”
The 20-year-old woman was able to crawl to safety through wood and debris, according to NBC New York, and suffered scrapes and bruises.
Eyewitness James Feig told ABC 7 New York that he was the first one at the scene.
“I rode up to it, went back behind the billboard, and there was a lady buried in the rubble,” Feig told ABC 7, referencing the older sister. “She had the phone in her hand. She was talking to dispatch.”
When Feig realized there were additional people trapped, he called out to them but said there was “no response, so they either couldn’t hear us or were unconscious.”
“Soon as I saw the firetruck come up the road, I told her, ‘Here comes the fire truck. Hold on.’ It brought tears to my eyes,” he told ABC, adding that he stayed at the scene and tried to help the victim stay calm.
Casey Teuchert, who was also at the scene, told ABC 7 that the 20-year-old “was doing well, and that’s what you want to see. And I was just so happy at that point just to see somebody come out of there.”