One of the two daughters heard a cracking sound Monday morning at their family’s home in Hamilton Township, New Jersey — and moments later, the three-story residence was collapsing, according to police and fire officials.
The 20-year-old who heard the ominous noise ran from the home as the structure “pancaked” to the ground in a crush of brick and splintering wood, News 12 reports. She was half out of the home but stuck in debris when fire officials arrived around 7 a.m.
But her mother, 38-year-old Tika Justice, and her 16-year-old sister were still trapped inside, NJ.com reports. Firefighters could hear screams from the rubble after they rescued the 20-year-old and transported her to the hospital, authorities said.
Firefighters spent an hour sifting through debris before finally discovering the 16-year-old alive, News 12 reports. The girl was shielded from the rubble by her mother’s body on top of her, NBC Philadelphia reports. The mother died in the collapse.
Fire officials said it appeared the mother and daughter were in a second-floor bedroom during the collapse.
The two daughters were taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in stable condition, authorities said at a press conference Monday.
Fire officials said they don’t think an explosion caused the home to crumble because the structure fell downward, rather than flying outward.
Photos the fire department took at the scene reveal the destruction.
Authorities said they believe the three family members were the only people in the home when it collapsed, but are still doing a second sweep of the debris to be sure.