Mother Killed in New Jersey House Collapse Shielded Teen Daughter

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
July 24, 2018 Updated: July 24, 2018

A New Jersey mother who was killed in a house collapse shielded her youngest daughter as the structure came down, officials said on Tuesday.

Tika Justice, 38, was found on top of her 16-year-old daughter, officials told WPVI.

The teenager and her 20-year-old sister, both survived and are now recovering in the hospital.

The 20-year-old woman was found chest-deep in debris when first responders first arrived at the three-story collapse in Hamilton Township, in Mercer County, early Monday morning. Neighbor James Feig, the first one on the scene, tried to free the 20-year-old but was unable to but stayed with her until firefighters arrived.

He said the 20-year-old called 911.

“Soon as I saw the fire truck come up the road I told her ‘here comes the fire truck, hold on.’ It brought tears to my eyes,” Feig said.

The 20-year-old apparently awoke and heard cracking in the house and started screaming before trying to run out of the home. She was freed first and firefighters later found the mother on top of her teenage daughter under rubble on the second floor, Hamilton Police Chief James Stevens told NBC.

The daughters are in stable but serious condition at the hospital.

The cause of the collapse isn’t known yet, but Hamilton Fire Department Capt. Ferdinand Mather told NJ Advance Media that is not believed to have been the result of an explosion.

“At this time we do not believe that to be the case, given that the house had a pancake-type collapse,” Mather said. “Everything was compacted at the scene.”

The home was a rental unit.

Family members said Justice’s actions, which may have saved her daughter’s life, were part of who she was.

“She’s that type of person,” Justice’s brother Brushaun Davis told NBC. “She’ll save her kid before she saves herself.”


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Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.