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An improperly disposed cigarette caused a fire to break out in a designated smoking area on the second floor of the Mariner's Cove Motel in Point Pleasant Beach early last Friday morning, claiming the lives of four people.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said Monday in a statement that investigators narrowed down the origin of the fire to a stuffed chair located along the east wall of the smoking area.
A team of investigators from federal, state, county and local agencies arrived at their findings thanks to the expert forensic assistance of the Ocean County High Tech Crime Unit in recovering critical video from the severely damaged motel surveillance system, Coronato said. As the investigation moves forward, the team will continue to analyze the recovered video, pre and post scene photos, along with interviews of motel guests and management.
"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," said Coronato.
The statement Monday did not address whether or not there were sprinklers or other fire suppression systems in the motel.
A final fire report will be issued after interviews are conducted with local code officials, representatives of the Medical Examiner’s Office, and surviving motel guests, Coronato said.
The prosecutor's office also identified the four deceased victims of the fire, all of whom died of smoke inhalation.
They are: John Alberti, 45, of Keansburg; Paulo Martins, 20, of South River; Harold Ford, 52, of Twin Lake Heights, Neptune; and Albert Sutton, 66, of Mount Laurel.
The Medical Examiner is continuing the forensic investigation to definitively achieve positive identifications, Coronato said, though the next-of-kin for all four victims have been notified. Alberti was the only victim thus far to be positively identified.
Those who suffered injuries in the fire were also identified. Most have been treated and released from area hospitals, including:
Killol Shah, 25, who suffered cuts to hands and face and was treated and released from Jersey Shore University Medical Center; Karl Green, 60, who suffered burns to his arm and neck and was treated and released from Jersey Shore; Melanie Deieso, 22, who suffered second degree burns and is still being treated at the St. Barnabas Burn Center; Alexis Scarpone, 20, treated and released from Ocean Medical Center; James Gianuzzi, 51, treated and released from Ocean Medical Center; Frank Smith, 51, who suffered burns to his shoulder and back and was treated and released at the scene.
Another victim, Keri Anderson, 42, is still in critical condition at St. Barnabas after being transferred there from Jersey Shore.
The investigation is ongoing, officials said, and anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to contact Detective Thomas Haskell, Jr. of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027 or the confidential tip line at www.oceancountyprosecutor.org.