She was a dedicated Customs and Border Protection supervisor. She was a mom. And on Friday, Jackie Montanaro died a hero in an attempt to save one of her daughters from a fire at the family’s home.
The fire in Hazlet, New Jersey, broke out shortly after midnight.
William Montanaro said he and his wife escaped the flames. So did their 8-year-old daughter, Elena, according to WABC-TV. Jackie Montanaro rushed in to rescue 6-year-old Madelyn, according to CBS.
William Montanaro said he was turned around by the smoke when he also went back inside, but Jackie never made it out alive.
In a statement issued after the fire, he said his wife “charged in with a mother’s love and the courage of a police officer fueling her attempt to save our daughter.”
“I am heartbroken. I have lost the love of my life — my beautiful wife, Jackie – and my sweet, loving, spunky little girl, Madelyn,” the statement said. The family dog, Duchess, also died.
“We are extremely devastated Duchess is no longer with us, but we must remember she is now at rest alongside Jackie and Madelyn,” the statement said.
Jacqueline was a supervisory U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at Newark Liberty International Airport, according to NJ.com.
The fire does not appear to have been suspicious, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said, according to WABC.
Domenico Montanaro, William Montanaro’s brother, said both victims received CPR at the scene, but died later in hospitals, according to NJ.com.
Domenico Montanaro relayed his brother’s recollections.
“He said he woke up to fire alarms going off (and) went downstairs; the bottom floor — one of the walls on the side of the house that’s charred now was already in flames,” Domenico said.
“Smoke was already billowing through the house, and he ran back upstairs to get the family out. And within seconds, the entire second floor was covered in black smoke. They basically had 10 seconds to try to get out of the house before they were covered. And they did what they could,” he said.
The deaths struck a chord of loss in the community, according to CBS.
We’re just so upset about it. There’s no words. Like why, why is this happening?” said Jacqueline Frescki, a preschool teacher.
On Monday, there were only tears as preschool teachers grieved the loss of 6-year-old Madelyn and her mother in the Friday morning fire.
“When you think of the perfect person, she was it. She was always just kind and kind to everyone, and she was instilling that in her daughters, to spread love and kindness,” said Sandy Hagberg, a preschool teacher at Miles of Smiles Daycare.
Hagberg said Jackie Montanaro was acting in character in her final moments.
The kind of mother that she was to those girls, it does not surprise me at all,” Hagberg said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.