Brighton Ave Fire

Campus to Aid Victims of Brighton Ave. Fire

“I heard on a walkie-talkie ‘Sue DePinho needs to come to the office, it’s an emergency.’ Suddenly my heart sank and the hallway became a mile long,” DePinho, a University alumnus, recalled.

DePinho had a missed phone call from her boyfriend on the morning of Monday, February 13. DePinho, who teaches Video Production and Photography at Shore Regional High School, was teaching class while her boyfriend, Derek Tranchina, was on his way to their burning apartment on Brighton Avenue in the West End of Long Branch.

DePinho and Tranchina moved in to the apartment about one year ago. “The location was amazing and the rent was affordable enough for the two of us to save for a house,” DePinho said. The apartment was also animal-friendly, perfect for their puppy named Blue. The night before the fire, DePinho said that Blue was up all night, scratching his crate and crying. They let him in bed with them and he was shaking, “which makes us believe that he knew something was going to happen,” DePinho said.

After she talked to someone in the office, she found out about the fire. “Stunned and hysterical, I called Derek, who confirmed that he did run in in time to get Blue, but the fire was bad and we might lose everything,” DePinho recalled.

She then made her way out to the building and nearly collapsed. “I could see the smoke from West Long Branch,” De- Pinho added.

As DePinho and the other residents stood outside, she said that her only question was what to do next. “We did not have insurance and we were basically told that there was nothing that we could do but watch it all burn,” she said.

“We just lost everything we owned and there is no one to blame or point a finger to,” De- Pinho added. “To have no possessions and no home is a situation that no one should ever have to be in.”

The only things they were able to save were what they had on them and Blue, after Tranchina had gone in to rescue him only a few minutes before their apartment building caught on fire. “I cannot imagine losing everything you own and your pet at the same time,” DePinho said. “We were lucky to get him.”

Tranchina recalled pulling up to the building and with all the chaos, he didn’t have much time to think. “But there was no way I was going to leave my dog in there without at least trying to get him. He’s a part of our family,” he said. “I just remember thinking, ‘If my dog is safe, everything else can burn’.” The couple said that they owe Blue’s life to one of Tranchina’s friends, who was eating lunch at La Scalas Pizzeria across the street when he saw smoke coming from the dance studio and called Tranchina.

The University and local community have been helping De- Pinho and the other victims raise money. Shore Regional High School and other local schools also have done some fundraising while collecting clothes and home goods.

DePinho shared that the employees at the Central Jersey Bank, which was located across the street, have played a big part in donations, fundraising and support for everyone. “I keep calling them our little angels,” she said.

Other businesses that are helping the couple include The Wind- Mill, Jacks Goal Line Stand, Surf Taco, and The Mix Lounge and Food Bar. They have all helped through either donations or fundraising.

“At Monmouth, alumni, professors, employees, and other MU community members have made very generous contributions,” said DePinho. As an alumnus of a sorority, her sisters and alumni in Delta Phi Epsilon held a Premier Designs jewelry party this past Sunday where she received the profits, which have yet to be disclosed.

Marilyn Ward, Coordinator of Service Learning and Community Programs, said the campus has been raising money for her with tables for collections at the basketball games, and in the Dining Hall and the Student Center as well.

DePinho worked in the office with Ward while she was enrolled. DePinho graduated from the University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Marketing and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a concentration in TV/ Radio Production.

As an undergraduate student, she also was a cheerleader, host of the show M-You and had a Friday afternoon radio show on WMCX to name a few of her activities.

“When people asked us what we needed, it was hard to respond,” De- Pinho said. “If you walk into your house and look around at everything you have, that is what we lost.”

While tragedy has hit the couple’s lifestyle, they said that they are still grateful for what they do have. “We have each other and we have the puppy,” DePinho said. “Everything else is just stuff.” She added that she feels blessed that it did not happen during the night and no one was killed.

“The love and support we have received has been unbelievable,” De- Pinho said. “We are so lucky and fortunate, which is ironic to say after what we have been through, but it is true.”

Members of the University community who wish help the couple through donations may contact Ward at mward@, or Mark Holfelder, Associate Director of Residential Life, at mholfeld@monmouth. edu.