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Seven People, Including Four Children, Killed In House Fire

April 21, 1987

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ A blaze early Monday that engulfed a row house and killed seven people, including four children, probably was caused by careless smoking, the prosecutor said.

Fire officials, however, said no cause was determined for the blaze that left two other children in critical condition.

The victims, all found crowded into the kitchen in the rear of second floor, included a young couple and two children who lived upstairs. Also dead was a woman and two of her three children, who had moved into the first-floor apartment about two weeks ago.

All died apparently of smoke inhalation.

Neighbors said they could hear the screams of the trapped residents from the second floor as the the fire engulfed the first floor in front and spread quickly toward the rear of the building shortly after it broke out about 5 a.m.

″The crackling of the burning wood woke me up. The fire was right there, but I couldn’t get past it. I could hear the kids screaming. I could hear them but I couldn’t get to them,″ said neighbor Duane Vautier.

″I’ll always remember the screams, and then they just stopped. The smoke put them down - it was real heavy smoke,″ said Zayda Cintron, who lives across the street. ″Everybody was shouting, ’Throw the kids.‴

Killed were Carmen Valentin, 23, her 3-year-old daughter, Yajaira Acevedo, and her 4-year-old son, Roberto Acevedo; Isidro Perez, 24; and Sonia Rosado, 19, and her two daughters, Jasmine Maniero, 2, and Dmaris Maniero, 18 months.

Ms. Valentin’s other son, Alberto Acevedo, 15 months, was in critical condition at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

Camden County Prosecutor Samuel Asbell said evidence shows the fire began on the second floor, probably in a mattress from careless smoking. He said his investigation is continuing.

The conclusions contradicted those of Fire Marshal James Hillman, who said the fire began on the first floor and its cause was still undetermined.

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