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Jersey shore home vanishes

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EXCLUSIVE: A man in New Jersey returned to his home after Superstorm Sandy only to find it had vanished -- and not from the storm. At issue is who tore it down and why?

The Jersey shore homeowner reached out to us after finding his summer home had vanished along with everything inside. So we called the state looking for answers.

Nick Maria gets emotional when talking about his summer home on 5th Avenue in Ortley Beach -- a home that suddenly vanished a few weeks ago.

"Worse than bizarre. It's very sad," he said. "Very disheartening."

Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, residents were allowed to return to gather their belongings. But when Maria arrived his home -- and everything in it -- was gone. All that was left was a plot of land. 

"I never saw anything like this in my life," Maria said. "And when I took my wife here a week later, she was crying her eyes out in the street."

Maria said he immediately started making phone calls.

"The township didn't know what happened. I called the governor's office and asked the assistant what happened. She said to me, 'Are you sure your house is gone? 'I said 'Miss, you misplace your pen or pencil. You don't misplace your house.'"

A picture taken by a neighbor just after the storm shows Maria's home had shifted off its foundation but it was still standing.

He said he was never told that his home would be demolished and all his possessions thrown away. 

"I just want to know where my house went, why was it removed, and why wasn't I afforded the opportunity to get my personal belongings," he said.

Maria contacted the New Jersey Department of Transportation to find out what happened.

He got a letter that states that "The DOT did not remove any structure that was not on the roadway... our objective... was to open the roadways."

But here is the problem, Maria said his home was not blocking a roadway and he said this picture proves it.

"It clearly was not in the street, clearly not in the street," Maria said. "There's a utility pole standing there. The house would have knocked that over if it was in the street."

So Fox 5 contacted the DOT, which is now telling us the utility pole was the problem.

In a statement, the department said: "The structure in question... was pushed off its foundation and jammed against another house that had come to rest in the middle of the street. The two houses had sandwiched a utility pole. Our crews did not take down any structure unless it was deemed to be unsafe..."

Maria said he has hired a lawyer and he is figuring out what to do next.

But one thing is clear, though his summer home is gone he already has plans to rebuild.

"Beautiful town, beautiful neighborhood, location, as you can tell," Maria said. "I was thinking of coming to retire here someday. Not right now, no."

Maria said there were many items in his home that he wishes he could have saved; everything from his golf clubs to his wife's diamond earrings. Luckily, those items were insured so they can be replaced.

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