A 59-year-old man was charged Friday with causing the deaths of his 92-year-old mother and her male companion in a house fire Tuesday night in Burlington County, authorities said.
Kurt Smith allegedly was acting in a reckless manner with a cigarette lighter in the garage of the home in the Browns Mills section of Pemberton Township when the blaze erupted that killed Lore Smith and George Pikunis, also 92.
Smith was airlifted to Temple University Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. He was served Friday with the charges — two counts of first-degree aggravated manslaughter and one count of third-degree arson — at the hospital and will be taken into custody by Philadelphia authorities when he is discharged. Smith will then face an extradition proceeding for his return to New Jersey.
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina and Pemberton Township Police Chief David H. Jantas said in a statement that investigators learned that Smith was in the garage of the house in the 500 block of Willow Boulevard around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday with two other people "when he acted in a reckless manner and ignited flammable material with a cigarette lighter."
No details were released on what that manner might have been or who the other two people were.
Smith, who lived in the home with his mother and Pikunis, tried to put the fire out but could not, and it quickly spread once the garage door was opened. The two other people in the garage were not identified. They were not hurt.
Firefighters equipped with breathing gear pulled Pikunis, Smith, and his mother from the burning house. Pikunis was pronounced dead at the scene.
Lore Smith was transported to Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center at Deborah Hospital and pronounced dead.
It took firefighters an hour to get the fire under control.