Tom's River, NJ Fire In County Jail Kills Eight, Aug 1959
8 DIE IN FIRE IN CROWDED JAIL AT TOMS RIVER.
NAVY MAN HURT TRYING TO MAKE RESCUE.
Toms River, N. J. (AP) - The Ocean County prosecutor said today the disastrous county jail fire was caused by matches or a lighted cigarette passed to a prisoner in a padded cell.
The fire that broke out in the cell filled the jail with smoke, caused an explosion, and took the lives of eight prisoners, 12 were injured.
Sheriff Harry Roe said the fire began in a portable, padded cell in a second-floor corridor of the two-story red brick building.
But he didn't know how. He said prisoners are not permitted to have matches and each prisoner is thoroughly searched before admission.
Dies In Padded Cell.
Seven of the fire victims died of smoke poisoning. The eighth was burned to death in the padded cell.
The victims included one man serving 90 days for disorderly conduct. Others were charged with murder, rape, larceny and forgery.
One of the injured was a U.S. Navy man, a weekend visitor, who was critically burned when he tried to reach the terrified jail inmates.
A fight among several prisoners in a first-floor cellblock preceded the fire. Guards were trying to break it up when the fire was noticed by one of the prisoners, who yelled a warning.
Sixty-five prisoners were in the jail, which the sheriff said is supposed to house only 28.
GERARD LAU, 40, a ship-fitter second class stationed with the Naval Air Reserve training unit at Freeport, N.Y., was seated on the front porch of his father's house across the street from the jail when the fire broke out.
LAU raced for the jail when he heard the prisoners yelling. He ran to the second floor where three women prisoners were screaming, but was blown downstairs by an explosion. He crawled out critically burned.
Keys Were Lost.
Firemen who raced up the stairs were blown down by a second explosion. In the confusion keys to cell blocks were lost.
Under-sheriff Robert J. Miller, 35, freed all the prisoners on the first floor. Firemen then managed to rescue four inmates on the second floor. The three women were among them.
One of the dead was RICHARD FRANKLIN CAVILEER, JR., 22, of Toms River, who was being held without bail charged with the murder of his 22-month-old daughter, Deborah.
Others killed were:
ADAM BODZAN, 42, of Atlantic City.
JOSEPH BOOKER, of Delaware.
THOMAS ARTHUR HUGHES, 38, of Philadelphia.
WILLIAM CHARLES LEHMANN, 21, of Lakehurst.
WILSON CALVIN LETTS, 19, of Stafford Township.
STEPHEN JESEPH WOLF, JR., 30, of Manasquan.
The fire burned for about an hour and a half in the building's interior which is largely steel and concrete. The jail was put up in the late 1800's and rebuilt in 1923.
The Express Lock Haven Pennsylvania 1959-08-24