A police captain, his wife and two teenage daughters died in an intense fire that burned their suburban New York home to the ground early Tuesday, authorities said. One adult son managed to escape the blaze and was hospitalized.
The fire, reported by a neighbor just before 2 a.m., left little behind of the family's home on a quiet street in Carmel. A mound of black rubble was where the house used to be, between two other big, handsome residences.
The cause of the fire wasn't known, but the Carmel Police Department said it planned an intensive investigation.
Thomas Sullivan, a captain in the Larchmont Police Department, was a former New York police officer assigned to the Bronx who had left the city for the comparatively tranquil suburbs two decades ago because he felt he could make a bigger difference in a smaller community.
His daughters, 15-year old Mairead and 17-year old Meaghan, were students at Carmel High School. Mairead was a freshman and Meaghan a senior. Their mother, Donna Sullivan, also died.
A funeral is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday at St. James the Apostle Church in Carmel. The Balsamo-Cordovano Funeral Home, at 15 Church St. in Carmel, is handling funeral arrangements. Visiting hours have not yet been scheduled.
Only a 20-year-old son, Thomas Sullivan Jr., escaped the flames. He was treated for smoke inhalation at Danbury Hospital, Carmel police said. He is now staying with his grandparents in Dutchess County.
Carmel Police Chief Michael Johnson says the young man escaped by crawling down the stairs and out of the garage after being woken up by his father screaming about the fire.
"The school community is devastated,'' said the district's superintendent, James Ryan. "We are working together in this very difficult time to offer supports to students and staff.''
Principal Kevin Carroll said the girls "were good students and nice kids.''
"Obviously today their teachers were very upset, and of course the other students,'' he said, adding that school psychologists were following the girls' class schedules to see the children who would be most upset.
He said that many of the students knew of the fire by the time they got to school, and that administrators made an official announcement at 7:10 a.m.
"It was very quiet for the most part,'' Carroll said of the school's atmosphere. "There was something in the air.''
The blaze was so intense that it melted the siding of two nearby homes and prevented firefighters from entering, said Johnson. It took firefighters from several towns three hours to extinguish the flames. Video of the fire, posted on the website of the Journal News, showed the home being nearly entirely consumed by a fireball.
"There's nothing standing but two garage doors,'' said Lorraine Girolamo who lives two doors down the street. She said she didn't know the Sullivans well but saw them daily and would wave hello. She said they moved in about 11 years ago when the residential development opened.
Larchmont Police Sgt. Ronald Knudson said Sullivan would be missed.