Victims All Died Of Smoke Inhalation, Thermal Burns, Police Say

SHIRLEY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police have ruled that the fire that killed a mother and three children on Long Island last week was accidental.

Jennifer McCusker, 41, was killed in the fire at 16 Hollywood Dr. in Shirley, along with son Aidan Tarbell, 7, and twins Ava Jane Mistretta and Brendan Mistretta, both 2. The fire broke out around 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11.

Suffolk County police announced Saturday that Arson and Homicide Squad detectives had ruled the fire was started accidentally in the living room of the house.

The victims all died as a result of a combination of smoke inhalation and thermal burns, according to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office.

Police said McCusker was holding one of the twins and trying to get the other from a crib when she collapsed inside the one-story home. Two neighbors, one of whom is an emergency medical technician and the other of whom is a firefighter, could not enter the home due to smoke and heat.

The family was well known to neighbors, who said the twins’ father was not home because he worked the night shift. The children have different fathers.

Last Saturday night, a choked up Peter Mistretta faced the grim reality that his family was gone.

“Aidan, Brendan and Ava were the three best kids that any father could hope for,” he told CBS 2’s Steve Langford.

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