Family’s dog died trying to save 19-year-old from Westfield fire
WESTFIELD — For the second time in less than, a year a local family is mourning the loss of one of its own — after a teen son died in the fire that ripped through the family's home Monday.
Sam Tooley and his mother were able to escape the home before it was engulfed by flames. But Sam's 19-year-old brother Jake and their dog Moo were lost in the blaze. Sam told New Jersey 101.5 the dog had tried to go back into the house to save Jake, though both died.
The family, he said was still healing after the death of their dad, Michael, in November.
Sam Tooley said he was awoken at 3 a.m. on Monday morning by the sound of his dog barking.
"My room was a sutty cloud," he said. "I could hear plates smashing downstairs. I jumped out of bed and as soon as I opened the door was met with flames," he said.
With nowhere else to go, he punched out his window and jumped off the roof before running to the front of the house and calling 911, he said. While he knew his mom was safe, he said, at that time he had no idea whether his brother was home. Knowing Jake stayed out late, Sam assumed he was not.
By that time, the whole house was "engulfed" in flames as the police and fire departments arrived at the scene, he said.
"Their faces told the whole story," he said. "It wasn't for some time that we found out for sure that Jake had been inside."
Sam Tooley sounded every bit the big brother as he remembered Jake and what he meant, not only to him and his family, but to others as well.
"Jake was the type of person that you instantly trusted," he said. "He was as genuine as they come. He wanted to love you. He wanted to be your friend."
Describing Jake as "quiet but not shy," Sam Tooley added, "Your happiness always came before his."
"The word I keep coming back to when thinking of him is 'loyalty,'" Sam Tooley said. "He would look to me for direction but he was what was directing me."
In the time since their dad's death Sam Tooley said his younger brother reminded him of their father in many ways.
"Jake and him were so alike," he said. "Quiet but strong. They loved their family more than anything."
After the fire, a group of his college friends got together to start a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the family, Sam Tooley said. The page was started on Monday morning with the goal of raising $10,000. By Tuesday afternoon more than $140,000. has been raised.
"The support has been amazing," he said. "The support from them, my family, the Westfield community, the Westfield Track team I coach, it's amazing. We received similar support when we lost my Dad in the Fall."
According to the GoFundMe, the family "lost nearly all of their possessions, as well as their everyday necessities."
Sam Tooley said his brother played golf. Jake was set to start his sophomore year at Monmouth University and the University shared a post on its Facebook page mourning his loss.
"Jake will forever be a part of our Hawk Family," the school said.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com