ATF agents join investigation into explosion and fire that left 3 dead


WAYNE, N.J. — Federal agents have now joined the New Jersey State Fire Marshal’s Office, as well as Passaic County and Wayne Township officers, in the investigation of a mysterious explosion and fire that left three people dead.

The extent of the investigation shows how serious the situation is, and the account of an eyewitness underscores it as well.

“It was just a big explosion. Boom!” said Rosemary Claeys, who lives two doors down from the scene on Jackson Avenue near Gibbs Drive in Wayne.

The home was fully engulfed around 6:15 p.m. Monday.  

“The windows to the front of the house were blown out, all the glass was blown out of the windows,” she said, “and I saw the big fireball in the back of the house.”

She described the fire in very specific detail.

“It wasn’t even like flickering flames.” Claeys continued.  “It was engulfed in a wall of fire.”

She said that the one thing that may have prevented the tragedy from being even worse was that the first-responding firefighters are based at a volunteer firehouse across the street, just 150 feet away from the home.

“They responded immediately,” Claeys said.  

Neighbors said that a grandfather, his adult daughter, and the daughter’s boyfriend were in the home when the explosion and fire erupted.

“They were good neighbors,” Claeys told PIX11 News. “Real good neighbors, very nice people. He would help you with anything. It’s sad.” 

The list of authorities on the case is as extensive as the investigation itself. Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, were on the scene, along with state and local officers.  

They also had an evidence-sniffing canine on hand, as well as debris sifting equipment.

The family that lives in the Jackson Avenue home has not been officially identified, but people who know the family said that two other people lived in the home, in addition to the grandfather, his daughter and her boyfriend.

They said that a grandmother and her pre-school aged granddaughter live in the home as well, but are currently out of the country. Neighbors said that the two are away in South America.  

Investigators are still trying to determine a cause, and other pertinent information related to the explosion and fire.

Meanwhile, people who knew the family involved in the tragedy are shocked, and in mourning.  

“I’m devastated. I’m so sad,” said Claeys. “My heart breaks for that little girl, who no longer has her mother or her grandfather, and they don’t have a home anymore.  They’re going to come home to what? Just total devastation.”

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