HAMILTON (Mercer) — The water damage that caused the house collapse that killed a township woman and injured her two daughters is rare and largely preventable, according to a New Jersey-based expert.

A report Tuesday from the township engineering department cited long-term water damage and aging materials as the cause for the collapse that killed Tika Justice on Monday morning.

Mark McCann, a senior vice president for the Falcon Group said that long before the house collapsed there should have been warning signs that all homeowners should be aware of.

"A lot of times, water damage can go unnoticed for years," he said, but that once it is seen it is important to address it before the problem becomes worse.

Signs inside the house:

  • Mold growing on sheet rock
  • Wet spots
  • Damp smell that could be coming from inside the walls

Issues with the foundation:

  • Cracking in the foundation
  • Bowing walls
  • Anything that doesn't look necessarily normal

While aging materials were attributed to the collapse of the home in Hamilton, McCann said water infiltration can happen in houses of any age, which is why maintenance to prevent it is important.

"For the type of failure that you saw with the house collapsing, often times that type of water infiltration takes years to completely deteriorate the structural framing to the point where there's a collapse," he said.

If water damage is spotted McCann said people should contact an engineer or at least a contractor who can assess the situation and find the best solution. He said contractors often refer people to engineers if they are not comfortable handling the situation on their own. He also added that "just because you have one leak doesn't mean you're going to have a structural failure."

A collection drive has been started to help Miller's 16- and 20-year-old daughters who are continuing to recover from injuries. The girls lost everything when their home crumbled, so they have a lot of needs, according to Mayor Kelly Yaede.

The most needed items are:

  • Shoes (Women’s Sizes 10 & 11)
  • Clothes/Outfits (Sizes Large, X-Large and XX-Large)
  • Undergarments (Sizes Large, X-Large)
  • Gift card Donations are also welcomed

Donations may be left Monday-Friday at the John O. Wilson Neighborhood Service Center  9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and at the St. Phillips Baptist Church Monday through Friday 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. - noon.

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