Harrowing police body cam footage shows a group of police officers working quickly to rescue a family from a burning second-floor apartment, one of them scaling the house to hand off children and grandparents to his colleagues below as they shouted his name from below.
One of the rescuing officers was off-duty Port Authority Police Officer John Shaughnessy, who was just coming out the door of his North Brunswick townhouse with his dog about 10:30 p.m. when he saw flames leaping from the first floor of condo units just 50 yards from his own.
Shaughnessy sprang into duty, dropping his dog off and immediately running to the fire in the Governor's Pointe condos on Albury Way to join other first responders in banging on doors and windows to wake people up and get them out.
Just as they came back to where they started, they got wind of a family trapped on a second floor balcony.
"The whole entire walkway that would be their front door was engulfed in flames so the only way for them to come out was the balcony and even that was close to the flames," Shaughnessy said.
Dramatic body camera footage provided by the North Brunswick Police Department shows the harrowing rescue: one of the responding officers, Joseph Grassco, climbed up to the balcony and started lowering the family members -- two grandparents and two young children -- down to Shaughnessy and others.
The other officers were heard shouting, "Joey! Joey!" and directing him as he dropped the children into the arms of the officers below.
A neighbor caught Shaughnessy on video as he ran from the burning building with one of the children, a girl about 4 years old, cradled in his arms. Her little brother, about six months old, was also lowered down safely.
"She grabbed me, put her arms around me and I just ran across the road as fast as I could." Shuaghnessy said. "I didn't realize how close the flames were to the balcony until I saw the video."
The children were calm and unharmed, he said, and his neighbor bundled them up and looked after them -- with the help of popular kids show PAW Patrol --until they were able to be collected.
Everyone got of the condo alive thanks to the work of the North Brunswick Fire and Police departments, he said, although many of the units will have to be demolished.
"We are happy to report that in the end, there were no serious injuries,"
said North Brunswick Police Captain Brian Hoiberg.