JERSEY CITY, N.J. — A New Jersey man has admitted he smoked marijuana and drank before tossing lit matches in an apartment that sparked a fire which killed an infant and damaged dozens of buildings.
Twenty-one-year-old Edwin Diaz on Wednesday pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter.
Diaz said he was in the Union City apartment with the father of Eddie Gonzalez Jr. in March and they were lighting matches and tossing them on a cousin who was sleeping on a couch. The cousin would wake and flick the matches away.
Diaz says he and the child’s father were smoking marijuana in a bathroom when the fire broke out.
“They were trying to get the kid out, [the mother] was asking for help but they couldn’t but it was too intense,” Daniel Peek, a witness, said at the time.
The child died. His father, Eddie Gonzalez Sr., sustained burns while trying to rescue his son.
“When he hit the window the flames came out and his back was on fire,” Peek said.
Under terms of a plea agreement, Diaz will testify against the father. He’s charged with manslaughter.
The fire, which began around 1 a.m., spread quickly because of strong gusts. The 30 mph winds carried the flames and embers down the street to the Sts. Joseph and Michael parish. The steeple of the Catholic church, which has been in Union City for 150 years, ignited into flames and eventually collapsed.