HAMILTON (Mercer) — A mother died protecting her daughter Monday morning when their three-story Mercer County home collapsed around them.

Tika Justice, 38, who was the first person removed from the rubble of the home in the 1800 block of South Broad Street near Joseph Street  around 7 a.m., died from her injuries. Her daughters, age 16 and 20, were also extricated and were hospitalized at Capital Health Regional Medical Center in serious but stable condition.

Hamilton Police Chief James Stevens told NBC New York that Justice was found on top of her 16-year-old daughter when she was reached by rescue workers. A neighbor told the news outlet that the 20-year-old was on her cell phone with dispatchers and he stayed with her until help arrived.

The oldest daughter told NBC Philadelphia she heard a cracking sound just before the collapse.

"The house was reduced to several feet of rubble with the apex of the roof topping it," photojournalist Brian McCarthy said of the wreckage. The only thing left standing was a billboard

The three are believed to have been the only people in the home.

Police said there was no reports of an explosion prior to the collapse. PSE&G said it shut off gas to the neighborhood as a standard procedure but  "the incident isn’t gas-related," spokeswoman Deann Muzikar told New Jersey 101.5.

Police said the the cause of the collapse remained under investigation.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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