Community reaches out to help Frederica family displaced by fire

Elaynna Martz gets a welcomed hug from Kay Davis, of Marydel, who stopped by to express her sorry for the family that lost everything in the fire Monday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

FREDERICA — Kids stopping on their bicycles with a couple dollars to give.

Strangers arriving in vehicles to provide donations and words of encouragement.

The Frederica Senior Center quickly organizing a fundraiser.

Fire companies holding boot drives and setting up donation tables shortly after a family’s tragedy.

Pennsylvanians arriving to give after hearing of a home in Delaware being destroyed when a fleeing vehicle crashes into it last weekend, igniting a fireball and displacing six residents.

A GoFundMe account established by an employer rapidly raising all of a $25,000 goal from more than 100 donations and continuing to rise after that.

And many more acts of generosity, sympathy and selflessness in a time of need.

Elaynna Martz looks through a charred middle school yearbook that belonged to her son Garrett (left) who is now 18. She said her grandfather was a White House photographer years ago and the family was very centered around photographs. All family pictures were apparently destroyed in the fire Monday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The Martz family says its been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support following the unimaginable upheaval of a once comfortable life at 118 Front St.

“Physically I’m drained but mentally I am at an all-time high because I feel we’re on the upside of the emotional roller coaster because of the whole community coming together as they did, how so many people came out with donations, with love and support,” said Mrs. Martz, whose husband Boe, their three children and her brother were displaced from their home.

And the family is most grateful that everyone is alive.

A review of a neighbor’s surveillance video confirmed just how fortunate they were to survive.

They described seeing a vehicle driven by a man — subsequently arrested and charged with multiple felonies — crash into their home after failing to negotiate a curve during a chase on Sunday night.

Elaynna Martz’s brother Jason Garton was sleeping in the front room of the house when a car being chased by police smashed into it and set fire to the two-story home on Front St. in Frederica Monday night. He was trapped in the rubble and suffered a double fractured cheekbone. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Harrington police said the 10- to 15-minute pursuit was initiated at around 10:28 p.m. when a vehicle was seen traveling on U.S. 13 in excess of 100 mph.

The vehicle eventually slammed into an enclosed front porch area where Mrs. Martz’s brother Jason Garton was sleeping. Flames erupted and the residence was quickly incinerated.

“This is a house,” Mrs. Martz said. “Our home is where our family is. It was truly a miracle that we all made it out.

A vehicle crashed into a house at 118 Front St. in Frederica last Sunday night during a police pursuit. (Submitted photo/Harrington Police Department)

“We witnessed the video and our knees buckled under us to see how quickly it all happened. It was instant. The gas tank in the car was immediate ignition and the flames were so high and the heat so great.

“So it was truly a miracle that we were able to get out as we did and all of us were intact …”

The family wasn’t completely unscathed, however, Mrs. Martz noted.

Her brother’s cheekbone was fractured in two places and will require surgery once the swelling subsides. Nine stitches were required for a laceration on the right side of his face, along with braces for his teeth. Second-degree burns to his forehead resulted as well.

During part of a nearly nine-minute Facebook Live session this week, Mrs. Martz described his cheek as “crushed in, but he is alive and it is a miracle from God …

“God saved him by two and a half feet.

“That’s how far away he was from the vehicle actually crashing into him, so he is my cat of nine lives.”

Mr. Garton recalled his ordeal and ultimate survival this way:

“I’m like ‘Why is this car in front of me, what’s on top of me?’ And at the same time I’m hearing the crackling sound of fire.

“All of a sudden I start to feel the heat and realize, OK this is not a dream. This is really happening and I need to get out of here.

“Your survival instinct kicks in.

“Then all of a sudden I feel this hand coming and physically grabbing me by my chest and I hear ‘You gotta help me buddy,’ and I’m communicating saying ‘I’m doing the best I can. Let me get this stuff off my legs and we can get out of here.’

“Then I feel like I’m being pulled out and rolling out from it.”

And who pulled him out from the fire? Mr. Garton reasoned that ““My guardian angel was beside me.

“I’m a praying man and pray each and every night and each and every morning to place angels all around me to watch over me and they were there.”

Three pet guinea pigs that her daughters cared for did perish in the fire, Mrs. Martz said.

According to police, the driver of the vehicle that crashed was evaluated by EMS but refused transport to the hospital. Two females in the vehicle were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.

Just prior to the incident, according to Mr. Martz, the family was settling in after taking a three-day weekend camping trip, relaxing before another week of school and work.

“We were doing our normal thing, everyday life in this beautiful town with all these beautiful people around us,” he said.

Mr. Martz, a glass installer, was told by his GoGlass employer of around 16 years, to take as much time off as needed, along with his co-worker/ brother-in-law Mr. Garton.

GoGlass established the GoFundMe account and made the first donation and Mr. Martz described his co-workers as “family to me.”

The experience has evoked a new perspective on life, according to Mr. Martz.

“After something like this you don’t take things for granted, don’t put things off, don’t say ‘Hey, I’ll get to it later’ “ he said.

Mrs. Martz described herself as a “homemaker and domestic engineer, chauffeur and private chef.”

The family remains displaced and looking for temporary housing, but Mr. Martz said they’ll be back at the home they bought in 2005, albeit with the front rebuilt further back from the street.

“We had a family meeting (Wednesday),” he said. “We’re a tight-knit family. We sit down for dinner and we pray before we eat and that’s how we’ve always been.

“We’re all moving forward. We said we are going to rebuild. This is not going to force us to move from this spot.”

In the days following the crash, the family moved in with Mr. Martz’s parents in Felton. Concerned folks also dropped off a large trove of supplies to get by on.

The children — Polytech High senior Garrett, W.T. Chipman Middle School seventh-grader Isabella and Lake Forest Central Elementary School fifth-grader Gracie — appear to be getting along well, their parents said.

“My girls are so positive,” according to Mrs. Martz. “My youngest is having the hardest time with it just because of all the fear that happened.

“We’re not allowing this to overtake them. We’re trying to be as normal as possible, trying to keep some routines going.”

Garrett, an Eagle Scout and high school golf team member, has continued with his co-operative learning schedule that includes half a day of virtual learning and carpenter training with Tidemark Construction, which is assisting in the recovery as well.

According to Mrs. Martz, ““With all that everyone is giving, Isabella has been inspired to join the fire company.

“She wants to do some charity work and help other families; she wants to pay if forward to all those in need which is a beautiful thing to see in a child.

“She was always so caring anyway but this has just made it so important to her.”

Via Facebook Live, Mrs. Martz explained “For all those who have sent me messages please know I’ve got over 500 messages from companies and people individually to answer and I will try to get back to everyone I can.

“Right now I’m just handling a lot of paperwork and I literally just got my phone back.

“My personal phone burnt up in the fire and so did my brother’s, so if people are trying to reach us on our telephone numbers we can’t answer you but I just replaced by phone last night so I do have my phone back.”

Continuing on, Mrs. Martz recounted that “My phone went insane with how many people were on there messaging me wanting to know how can they help, how can they help,” she said.

“Please understand that we are not ignoring you, we are just extremely grateful for everybody who is doing something for us.

“It’s just that we have to get legal things going as fast as we can and we have to get this insurance stuff going through.”

Eventually, Mrs. Martz said her family plans to use some of the funds received to donate a piece of playground equipment to a park in Frederica.

Near the end of the Facebook Live update on her family’s situation, Mrs. Martz said, “I think Boe and I are losing our voices a bit because we just can’t say thank you enough.

“Like I said we’ve got people who see us out in front of our home as they drive by and say ‘Here, come take this, take this’ and it’s just been an outcry of everyone saying your family didn’t deserve this and we love you and you guys are great, people telling me they love my decorating.

“It just, all those things are just reminders of how the little things we do in our lives are big effects to other people and I just didn’t now how much love there was out there for our family until this happened and the love of God has been amazing so I love every single person out there, I love you all and I appreciate you so the Martz family is staying strong, alright? …”

The Frederica Senior Center will host a benefit dinner for the family on Friday, Oct. 30. The dinner, at 216 Market St., will run from 4-6 p.m. and be served as dine-in or carry out. The menu includes spaghetti, garlic bread, salad and dessert. The cost is $10 per person.

Music be provided from 6-7:30 p.m., along with silent auction items being made available, along with raffles and 50/50 drawings. All proceeds will benefit the family, the senior center said.

COVID-19 restrictions will apply. For more information call 335-4555.

The family suggested anyone wishing to help should contact Frederica Town Hall at 335-5417 or Frederica Volunteer Fire Department at 335-3235.