Nurse Wanted in Hackensack Fire, NJ Hospital Found Dead

A 31-year-old contract nurse accused of attacking and seriously burning a colleague in a Hackensack University Medical Center rest room has been found dead in Camden County.

Nicholas Pagano, from West Deptford, left after the assault at around 5am on Monday. Police said he set fire to a 54-year-old woman and hit her with a crescent wrench.

Bergen County District Attorney Mark Musella said Monday night he was supposed to be driving a white 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee with black roof bars and New Jersey license plate number S57 NJH.

His body was later found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a wooded area in Waterford Township, according to the prosecutor’s office.

NBC New York reported that Pagano used a gun taken from a relative’s home, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.

Nicholas Pagano (BCPO)

Nicholas Pagano (BCPO)

The victim suffered third-degree burns to his upper body, face and hands on Monday, as well as a cut to his head that required stitches, according to Musella.

She was treated in the emergency room at HUMC before being taken to another medical facility for further care, where she remained in stable condition on Tuesday.

Pagano had been working at Hackensack since mid-November after being vetted by a contracting agency, including state and county background checks, drug screening and licensing review.

Hackensack University Medical Center

Hackensack University Medical Center (Hackensack Meridian Health)

The hospital previously released this statement on Monday:

“Violence will not be tolerated in our network. Our doctors, nurses and teams are true heroes and deserve our respect. The safety of our patients and team members is Hackensack Meridian Health’s highest priority.”

Musella thanked the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, Hackensack Police Department, West Deptford Police Department, Hammonton Police Department, Waterford Township Police Department, Winslow Township Police.
Department, State Park Police, Gloucester County District Attorney’s Office, Camden County District Attorney’s Office, and Atlantic County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in the nearly statewide investigation.

A freelance nurse is a healthcare professional who works on a contract basis, rather than being employed full-time at one location and usually travels to different locations to support staff in times of shortage.

Demand for these workers has increased due to the ongoing toll of the COVID pandemic.

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