POINT PLEASANT BEACH - Authorities say they have identified the four people killed in a motel fire at the Jersey Shore.
The Ocean County Medical Examiner has 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 Twin Lake Heights/Neptune, and 66-year-old Albert Sutton, of Mount Laurel. The cause of death is listed as smoke inhalation and the manner was accidental for all four victims.
The medical examiner says all next of kin have been notified.
Eight others were injured in the fire. At least one remains in critical condition.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato says the preliminary investigation indicates that the fire originated in a second-floor smoking area and was allegedly caused by a cigarette improperly discarded in a stuffed chair.
The blaze broke out at around 5:30 a.m. Friday at the Mariner's Cove Motor Inn in Point Pleasant Beach. About 40 people were staying there at the time, including some who had lost their homes in Superstorm Sandy.
Former residents of the motel were there Monday to find out what remained of their belongings.
Their belongings may be wet and smoky, but the Wardell family is relieved that virtually everything in their room has been saved. "A lot of things are wet but we could wash it," says Crystal Wardell. "We got a lot of important paperwork and stuff wasn't really touched so hopefully everything's gonna be all right."
James Gianuzzi got his signed Babe Ruth picture back, but is more grateful for something else. "I guess the biggest thing is my passport to visit my mom and to visit my two sons in Sweden," he says. "Everything else is replaceable."
Motel employees braved conditions inside what's left of the motel to retrieve bags of clothes, dishware, pictures and tools. "I think it's pretty good for them to help us out here. They don't have to do this and they are actually putting themselves in danger by going in there. The place is not the safest environment right now," says fire victim Carl Green.
Many of the residents were moved to the White Sands Oceanfront Resort and Spa while looking for permanent housing.