Five Officers Recognized For Heroism They Rescued Seven People, Including Five Children, From A Burning Apartment Building In Camden.

Posted: November 17, 2000

CAMDEN — Five police officers were honored yesterday for rescuing five children and two adults from a burning building early Sunday.

Deputy Chief Edwin Figueroa presented certificates to Lt. Thomas Merek and Officers David Hamwright, Daniel Vause, Vivian Coley and Raphael Thornton during a ceremony at the Camden Police Administration Building.

"These officers deserve a pat on the back for the courage and bravery they displayed," Figueroa said. "The Camden Police Department is very proud of them."

Shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, police arrived at the Washington Apartments in the 2800 block of Washington Street to investigate a domestic complaint and found fire and smoke pouring from the first floor.

Unable to get in the front door, Merek led the other officers to the rear, where they saw Lisboa Eliset, 26, holding a young child at a second-floor window. She dropped the infant into Merek's arms.

Officers lowered a fire escape and climbed to the second floor. From there, they led three other children, Eliset, and an unidentified adult to safety.

Eliset then told police that her 2-year-old daughter was still inside.

Merek raced back into the burning apartment. Crawling, he could hear the child crying but could not see her, he said.

He said he had grabbed the child by her shirt and handed her out the window to other officers.

Police have arrested Eliset's boyfriend, Luis Orlando Vasquez, 30, in connection with fire. Charged with aggravated assault, aggravated arson and weapons violations, he was being held in the Camden County Correctional Facility after failing to post $49,000 bail.

John Way Jennings' e-mail address is

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