Fire Survivors Comb Through What Little They Have Left

Residents of fire-ravaged Mariners Cove Inn recall a night of horror

by Patricia A. Miller

Life was tough for the Wardelle family for the past seven months. They lived in a first floor room in the Mariner Cove Inn, with two beds for four people.

Early Friday morning, things got even tougher, when a fast-moving fire tore through the motel on Broadway in Point Pleasant Beach. Four men died in the blaze and eight others were injured.

Fortunately, Betty Wardell was already awake when the fire broke out.

"I was already dressed and ready for work when a kid ran by yelling 'fire,' " she recalled. "It's something I wouldn't ever want to be in again."

"You could hear the roar and cracking and popping," said grandson Shawn Wardell.

Shawn, Betty, his brother and his grandfather, who suffers from dementia, were back at the motel on Monday morning. It was cold and windy. The acrid smell of smoke was still in the air. Charred timbers and cinders littered the ground.

A little band of survivors rustled through black garbage bags and plastic bins, looking for whatever else they had left in this world besides each other.

Sleep has not come easily for the Wardell family since the fire.

"I can't believe it," Shawn Wardell said. "I wake up sweating and shaking. It's the first fire I've been in and I hope it's the last."

"Once I wake up, I'm up for the rest of the night," Betty said.

Another man and woman nearby were carefully pulling items out of the plastic bags in the chill morning air.

"I'm looking for my wallet," the man said quietly.

The worst of the fire was in the smaller section of the L-shaped building. That's where people died. The walls have been pulled off and the interiors of the rooms are visible.

The swimming pool water is a brackish black, with ash and cinders floating on the top.

Betty and Shawn said they knew two of the men who died in the blaze. They said their names were Harold and Allen.

For now, home for the Wardells and the other survivors is the White Sands Motel in Point Pleasant Beach. The Wardells had lived in the Mariner's Cove Inn since October, when the owner of the house they were renting sold it, Shawn said.

The family is hoping to possibly relocate to Blairstown, where Betty's sister lives, Shawn said.

"Thank you for talking to us," he said to a reporter.


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