Father is Accused of Starting Union City Fire that Killed his Son


March 18,2017

The father of a 2-year-old boy killed this month in fire in Union City is one of two men charged with starting the fire, authorities announced Thursday.

The father, Eddie Gonzalez Sr., 26, and Edwin Diaz, 20, both of Union City, are each charged with causing widespread damage, a third-degree crime, and creating a risk of widespread injury or damage, a fourth-degree offense, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez announced.

The two face up to five years in prison if convicted, Suarez said.

Eddie Gonzalez Jr. died in the 1 am fire in the second-floor apartment his family rented at 1404 Summit Ave. in Union City.

Authorities had said the father was badly burned trying to save his son, and the older Gonzalez was hospitalized at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, before being released last week. The father attended his son’s wake on Friday.

Gonzalez and Diaz are both scheduled for initial court appearances in Jersey City on April 6, Suarez said.

Suarez did not elaborate on the charges or detail just how the two men started the blaze.

Suarez said the investigation is ongoing. The Union City Police Department, state fire marshals, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are also involved in the case.

In announcing the charges on Thursday, Suarez said the fire started in the rear room of the Gonzalez family’s apartment, where the father and son lived with Eddie’s mother, Aaliyah Mercado, and 5-month-old sister, who both used the fire escape to get out unharmed.

Griciel Villacreses, her husband and six children escaped out a window of their apartment after she said no one came to her door. In the same building, 2-year-old Eddie Gonzalez perished on the second floor.

Suarez said Union City police officers who arrived on the scene first, found Gonzalez Sr. at the top of the fire escape, and he was initially taken to Jersey City Medical Center with burns and heavy smoke inhalation, before being transferred to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.

Suarez said officers entered 1404 Summit but had to retreat from heavy smoke and fire.

Flames rapidly spread throughout the three-story wooden apartment house, as well as the neighboring house at 1402 Summit, and both structures were gutted by the fire. Officials said 1406 and 1408 were also affected, and Suarez said a total of 20 apartments were destroyed or damaged.

First seen on NJ.com