Investigators Can't Rule Out Cigarette Started Deadly Beach Fire

Officials in Ocean Isle Beach say an investigation has failed to firmly establish the cause of a fire that killed seven South Carolina college students last weekend.

Mayor Debbie Smith said today that the fire started on the back deck of a three-level beach house, but the extensive damage made it impossible to say exactly what sparked the flames.

She said investigators could-not rule out that the fire started because smoking materials were improperly discarded, and there have
been no reports of any other possible ignition sources. Smith said investigators found absolutely no evidence of arson.

Six students from the University of South Carolina and one from Clemson were killed early Sunday when flames erupted at the house. Six other people escaped.