Suffolk County police Saturday said the fire that killed a mother and her three children a week ago in Shirley started accidentally in the living room.

But police did not say what sparked the fire.

Police also announced that the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office determined the cause of deaths as a combination of smoke inhalation and thermal burns.

The blaze, which occurred Oct. 11 at 16 Hollywood Drive, killed 41-year-old Jennifer McCusker, 7-year-old Aidan Tarbell and two-year-old twins Ava Jane Mistretta and Brendan Mistretta. They were all pronounced dead at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue.

Police were first alerted to the fire when a neighbor dialed 911 after her two sons—one an EMT and the other a volunteer firefighter—tried unsuccessfully to enter the house.

McCusker was discovered in a room with the twins and Tarbell was found in an adjoining room, police said.


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Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: Twitter: rashedmian