By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - An improperly discarded cigarette was the likely cause of a New Jersey shore motel fire that killed four people last week, according to a preliminary finding released on Monday.
The fire started early on Friday in a designated smoking area on the top floor of the two-story Mariner's Cove Motel in Point Pleasant Beach, the statement said.
"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," said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato in a statement.
In addition to the fatalities, seven people were injured, three critically, when the blaze destroyed the motel. One victim remains in critical condition and another is listed in stable condition, while the others were treated and released from area hospitals, prosecutors said.
Autopsies showed smoke inhalation as the cause in the four deaths, which were listed as accidental.
About half of the 40 residents of the hotel were using it as temporary housing after being displaced from their homes by Superstorm Sandy, which slammed the U.S. East Coast in October 2012.
Local authorities will be meeting with building code officials, the Medical Examiner's office and surviving guests to compile a final report, prosecutors said.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)