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An open flame ignited a couch in a dormitory lounge and caused a fire that killed three students and injured 62 people at New Jersey’s Seton Hall University last year, prosecutors said Thursday. Essex County, N.J., Prosecutor Donald Campolo said investigators have been gathering evidence on the Jan. 19, 2000, blaze under the assumption that the fire was arson. He did not name suspects or announce charges. “Our objective was not to seek a quick resolution, but a correct one,” Campolo said as he released the first public details of the investigation. Investigators ruled out electrical problems or a smoldering cigarette as possible causes, Campolo said. No accelerants were found. The Star-Ledger of Newark, quoting unidentified sources close to the investigation, reported last Thursday that the probe was focused on two students who were drinking and roughhousing to celebrate a victory of the school’s basketball team. The two have denied setting the fire, the newspaper said. Witnesses have identified students who were in a lounge minutes before the fire, but authorities have been unable to get enough evidence to make an arrest, the newspaper reported. Investigators said the fire began when an open flame set a couch on fire in the student lounge. Two other couches also caught fire. Three freshmen died after intense heat and heavy smoke spread throughout the dormitory floor. Four of the 58 injured students were critically burned, and four police officers and firefighters were also hurt.

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