LITTLE FERRY, N.J. – A Little Ferry landlord’s failure to follow state codes led to a fire last summer that killed a 5-year-old Little Ferry girl and her grandmother, authorities charged.
Gary L’Heruex of Tenafly was charged with two counts of knowingly violating the New Jersey fire code, leading to the deaths of Margaret and 5-year-old Maribella Colon, Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal announced Wednesday night.
He also was charged with two additional counts for causing injuries to Maribella's mother, Stephanie Colon, and David Lucero, Grewal said.
The arrest followed a joint investigation by his Arson Investigation Unit, Little Ferry police and the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, the prosecutor said.
Little Ferry police and firefighters evacuated the second floor at 119 Washington Avenue last Aug. 18, with those residents sustaining minor injuries -- except for Lucero, who was hospitalized, Grewal said.
However, the fire trapped third-floor residents Margaret Colon; her daughter, Stephanie; and granddaughter, Maribella, prompting Stephanie Colon to jump from the third-floor window.
Little Maribella Colon died at Hackensack University Medical Center just before noon the next day, Little Ferry Police Chief Ralph Verdi told Daily Voice at the time. Her grandmother, Margaret, died shortly after at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, the chief said.
SEE: Little Ferry Police Lt. Chris Boel was on routine patrol when he heard an explosion and saw fire around 11:30 a.m. He arrived to the sounds of screams as people tried to escape a three-story multi-family home on Washington Avenue. CLICK HERE....
The girl "was the last one taken out," Verdi said at the time. "They were doing CPR on her at the scene."
Margaret Colon was hospitalized with severe burns after firefighters carried her out through a window, the chief said.
An explosion and fire “were identified as originating in the garage area of the house, which was rented to a non-resident for the purpose of storing motorcycles,” Grewal said Wednesdsay.
“[A]lthough the house was a three-story dwelling,” he said, L’Heureux “failed to make the necessary upgrades as required by State of New Jersey regulations, including failure to maintain or install hard-wired smoke detectors, failure to provide a secondary egress or fire escape, as well as failure to provide apartment doors on the second and third floors that were required to have self-closure devices.”
L’Heruex was released on a summons to appear in court.