New Jersey

Man Charged With Starting Browns Mills House Fire That Killed His Mother

The blaze also killed the woman's companion.

A man has been charged with starting a fire that killed his mother and her companion inside their South Jersey home.

Kurt Smith, 59, was charged Friday with two counts of aggravated manslaughter and one count of arson after prosecutors say he started the deadly house fire in Browns Mills.

Smith, who lived in the house on the 500 block of Willow Boulevard, "acted in a reckless manner" when he used a cigarette lighter to ignite flammable material in the house's garage on Oct. 16, Burlington County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Joel Bewley said in a news release.

Prosecutors say Smith tried to put out the fire, but it quickly spread when the garage door was opened.

His mother, 92-year-old Lore Smith, and her companion George Pikunis, also 92, died from smoke inhalation and burns sustained in the flames, Bewley said.

At least five police officers were treated for mild smoke inhalation while trying to rescue the family, while one sustained a shoulder injury, according to Pemberton Police Chief David Jantas.

Smith was flown to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia to be treated for smoke inhalation. Prosecutors say that once he is discharged, he will be extradited back to New Jersey.

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