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Mariners Cove Motel Fire Ruled Accidental; Investigators Say Opiates Involved

The March 21 fire that gutted the Mariner Cove Motel in Point Pleasant and left four dead is ruled accidental.

Findings released today by the office of Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato cites “impaired actions and careless use of smoking materials by long time motel resident John Alberti.” Alberti, 45, died along with Harold Ford, 51, and Albert Sutton, 66, of Point Pleasant Beach, and Paulo Martins, 20, of South River.

All four deaths were attributed to smoke inhalation and ruled accidental.

The probe involved local, county, state and federal investigators, K9 teams trained in accelerant detection, sifting through remains and reviewing code inspection and fire-warning and suppression systems.

“The combined efforts of the partnering fire investigation team have produced a clear picture of what led to the motels rapid destruction and the tragic death of the four victims,” Coronato said in a prepared release.

Findings confirmed the point of origin as a stuffed chair in an open air lounge. A cigarette was the only heat source, authorities said. The determination was reinforced by images salvaged from the heavily-damaged surveillance equipment in the lounge, showing Alberti smoking in the spot where the fire erupted.

A toxicology test of Alberti’s remains revealed the presence of opiates, according to authorities. The screening was sought by the Prosecutor’s High Tech Crime Unit based on Alberti’s actions in the video remnants.

Sources close to the investigation tell us that Alberti had been released from the Monmouth County Correcitonal Institution the day before the blaze.

Authorities said they also spoke with motel managers, residents and fire witnesses.

Mariner’s Cove was up to date for its housing, building and fire code requirements, with no violations in the past five years, investigators concluded. They added that all rooms contained smoke detectors, and that motel dwellers and immediate first responders heard the alarms.

“This event tragically highlights how the impaired actions of those suffering from narcotic addiction can bring devastation to themselves and innocent unsuspecting individuals around them,” Coronato said. “By no means is heroin addiction a victimless crime.”

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