UNION CITY, N.J. — A 24-hour wake is underway at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Union City for five children who were killed in house fire.
The fire broke out on July 13 at a home on 25th Street. The children who were killed are siblings Jason Gonzalez, 2, Shamira Lopez, 4, Cristian Mendez, 7, and Jose Felipe Tejada, 13; and their cousin Mayli Wood, 5.
Small, white, open caskets lined the front of the church as dozens poured in to pay their respects throughout the day. Gov. Phil Murphy stopped at the church during the afternoon.
There were constant prayers, singing and music inside. Flowers and photos of the children were deposited into each casket. Tejada had a soccer ball resting at his side.
"I have never seen so many caskets at once at the same time in the same church like this," one mourner said.
The children were dressed in all white, as were their family members and many mourners.
The three-story building where they all lived was only supposed to have a store and two apartments in it. But the city since has found that there was more than one illegal dwelling inside.
At least 10 building and fire code violations were issued, with more to follow.
The landlord has been cited $60,000 in fines for issues such as an air conditioning unit blocking a window exit to a fire escape.
The investigation into what caused the fire is ongoing.