Deadly hotel fire raising safety concerns in New Jersey

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. - March 25, 2014

Activity has died down at the scene, but the probe continues into Friday morning's deadly fire at the Mariners Cove Motor Inn in Point Pleasant Beach.

The blaze killed four people, including 66-year-old Albert Sutton, formerly of Mount Laurel.

Based on surveillance footage pulled from the rubble and restored by computer experts at the Ocean County prosecutor's office, detectives have determined the cause of the fire was careless smoking.

"That's what allowed us to nail down the exact origin with regard to the chair and the chair cushion that was in the designated smoking area on the second floor," said Al Della Fave, Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

Authorities won't say if one of the four victims who died is responsible for leaving the burning cigarette that triggered the fire.

One woman, who stayed at Mariners Cove days before the fire, says the motel had battery-operated smoke detectors, but fire victims say they never went off.

"That's the thing, they were battery-powered fire alarms. Once they get hot and they melt, they are not going to work," said Tammy Tilton.

The deadly blaze has prompted Toms River to begin a comprehensive review of fire prevention and smoking regulations at all hotels and motels in the township.

"We are going to go out there and evaluate these buildings especially for smoke alarm compliance and any fire and life safety issues, and make sure we are not missing anything," said Jim Mercready.

And that is just fine with Jyotsana and Manu Patel, who own the Rodeway Inn on Route 37.

They say their smoke detectors are hardwired.

Fire Inspector Dominic Roselli says there is a danger out there, especially in older hotels and motels, when guests dismantle detectors to cook or smoke.

"It's a small concentration of area and the smoke generates enough to activate the alarm, so they take it down," explained Roselli.

Investigators will be looking to see if that played a role in last week's fire and if Mariners Cove was in compliance with fire codes.

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