A cigarette discarded in a stuffed chair caused a fire that killed four people at a Point Pleasant, New Jersey motel that housed people displaced by Hurricane Sandy last week, according to officials.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato says the fire began in a stuffed chair in a smoking area on the second floor of the Mariner's Cove Motor Inn, located two blocks from the beach. A lit cigarette that was discarded and stuffed into the chair tipped off the blaze, he said.
The Ocean County High Tech Crime Unit recovered critical video from the severely damaged motel surveillance system, Coronato said.
“This is only the beginning of an intensive investigation aimed at answering the many questions surrounding all the circumstances that contributed to the tragic deaths, injuries and loss of property,” Coronato said.
Coronato identified the victims as 45-year-old John Alberti, of Keansburg; 20-year-old Paulo Martins, of South River; 52-year-old Harold Ford, of Neptune; and 66-year-old Albert Sutton, of Mount Laurel.
The Medical Examiner autopsies of the four victims indicated that the cause of death was due to smoke inhalation and accidental.
Eight other people were injured in the fire, three of them critically.
The motel's guests included some individuals who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012.
The motel is a popular summer destination, but in slow winter months, it relies on people seeking low-cost rental units.
James Giannuzzi had been staying at the motel as part of his temporary living arrangements since his Point Pleasant Beach apartment was flooded during Hurricane Sandy.
He estimated that of the 40 people staying at the motel when the fire broke out, slightly more than half were either displaced Sandy victims or contractors working in the town's busy post-storm construction industry.
The surviving fire victims were given temporary shelter at nearby motels.
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