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Prosecutor: Improperly Discarded Cigarette Sparked Fatal Jersey Shore Motel Fire

Firefighters battle a motel blaze in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ on March 21, 2014. (credit: Ocean County Prosecutor's Office)

Firefighters battle a motel blaze in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ on March 21, 2014. (credit: Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office)

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POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. (CBSNewYork)The Jersey Shore motel fire that claimed the lives of four people last week was allegedly sparked by an improperly discarded cigarette, according to a preliminary investigation from the Ocean County prosecutor’s office.

A cigarette is believed to have ignited a stuffed chair in the second-floor smoking area of the 25-unit Mariner’s Cove Motor Inn in Point Pleasant Beach, according to authorities.

A surveillance video from the motel was recovered by investigators. The surveillance system was badly damaged in the fire, according to prosecutors.

“We thought there’s no way we’re gonna be able to recover anything here between the fire and the water damage but, amazingly, over the weekend, they managed to salvage significant surveillance video,” prosecutor’s office spokesman Al Della Fave told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “In terms of the who, that’s what we’ll endeavor to find out next.”

“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,” prosecutor Joseph Coronato said in a statement.

PHOTOS: New Jersey Motel Fire

The blaze broke out around 5:30 a.m. Friday. About 40 people were staying there at the time, including some who had lost their homes in superstorm Sandy.

Fire investigators had brought in special equipment and trained dogs to try to determine if the fire was arson.

John Alberti, 45, of Keansburg, N.J. is the only victim to be positively identified, according to the prosecutor’s office. Experts will use DNA to positively identify the other three victims, believed to be Paulo Martins, 20, of South River, Harold Ford, 52, of Twin Lake Heights/Neptune, Albert Sutton, 66, of Mount Laurel, the prosecutor’s office said.

Eight others were injured in the fire, three critically. Many of those injured had burns and broken bones.

No charges have been filed as the investigation continues.

The blaze was the second major fire at the Jersey shore in seven months, following a September blaze that destroyed about a third of the boardwalk in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. The boardwalk had just been rebuilt after Sandy. It is now being rebuilt – again – and many of the same arson investigators who probed the boardwalk fire were investigating the motel blaze as well.

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