At least two of the four Ocean County residents identified Thursday as victims of Hurricane Sandy died after refusing last-minute pleas for them to evacuate.
Erwin Bockhorn, 72, of Little Egg Harbor Township, stayed in his Forecastle Avenue home despite efforts by his ex-wife and her fiance to get him to leave as the storm was hitting the area Oct. 29.
And Leonard Thompson, 71, of Stafford Township, ignored evacuation efforts by local police. Stafford police Lt. Thomas Dellane said that on Oct. 29, police went to Thompson’s home and he refused to leave.
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office said in releasing the victims’ identities that Bockhorn’s death was reported Oct. 30. Authorities say he drowned. Thompson was pronounced dead Oct. 31. His cause of death was hypothermia due to exposure.
A third victim in southern Ocean County was Celestine Kreitzer, 94, of Forked River, who died of hypothermia, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. Kreitzer's death was pronounced Oct. 30..
The fourth death occurred in Brick Township. Authorities said George Tatay, 61. He died of asphyxiation caused by drowning.
Kathy Bockhorn, Erwin Bockhorn’s ex-wife and neighbor in Little Egg Harbor Township said she begged him to leave with her and her fiance, Bernard Wurtzbacher, last Monday.
Late in the afternoon on Oct. 29, Kathy Bockhorn and Wurtzbacher took the short walk just two doors down Forecastle Avenue to plead with her ex-husband.
They could see him through the window sitting in his living room and he waved at them to come into the home through the unlocked front door.
Wurtzbacher said Erwin Bockhorn poured a few last shots as the couple begged him to leave and the water rose just outside the door.
“He told us he was going to sit it out and he’d be fine,” Kathy Bockhorn said.
But she said when she left the house she knew that her ex-husband — they were married for 24 years — was not going to be fine. He was a diabetic and also had a heart condition.
Other neighbors and friends also begged Erwin Bockhorn to leave when they evacuated, but his ex-wife said he was stubborn.
“And no one really thought it was going to be this bad,” Wurtzbacher said.
The couple tried to return to pick up Erwin Bockhorn, a retired machinist, as the storm got worse, but they were stopped by police.
“The told us we couldn’t go back there and they said they didn’t have a vehicle large enough to go in. But we were willing to use our truck. I was screaming and I was ready to run past the cops. They told us they knocked on his door. That wasn’t enough,” Wurtzbacher said.
Kathy Bockhorn said she had a chance to say one last goodbye to her ex-husband at his home when authorities came to remove his body.
“The coroner let me go in and say goodbye and Erwin was face down on the floor and he was still in his boots,” she said as she tried to hold back tears.
In Stafford Township, Walter Avenue, in the Beach Haven West section was deserted Thursday afternoon save piles of debris stacked in front of homes. Thompson’s house was boarded up and in the driveway; an evergreen tree was lying on top of a car.
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