Investigators cite inadequate fire safety in Seton Hall tragedy

Faulty reporting procedures as well as inadequate fire safety precautions by officials at Seton Hall University contributed substantially to the deaths of three students and injuries to more than 50 others in a dormitory blaze more than six years ago, two of the nation’s top fire investigators have concluded.

“The overall response by the university to the event was wholly inadequate on multiple fronts,” the investigators say in a report filed Aug. 10 in Essex County, N.J., Circuit Court. “Seton Hall University officials seriously erred in their failure to take adequate and obvious fire safety precautions which would have controlled the fire in its early stages and prevented or reduced the risk of injury to many students.”

The report was prepared as part of the defense of two former students facing trial next month on charges of arson and murder. The students, Joseph LePore of Florham Park, N.J., and Sean Ryan of Livingston, N.J., are accused of starting the fire by igniting a poster that was on a couch in a dormitory lounge.

“Seton Hall was in full compliance with fire code at the time of the tragedy,” Thomas White, associate vice president for public relations and marketing at Seton Hall, commented in response to the report.

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