20-Year-Old Son Somehow Survives; Putnam County Community Shattered

CARMEL, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Four members of one family are dead following a house fire in the Putnam County town of Carmel.

Larchmont Police Captain Thomas Sullivan, his wife, Donna, and their daughters — 17-year-old Megan and 15-year-old Mairead — were killed.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones With More On The Investigation

Carmel police said that 20-year-old Thomas Sullivan, Jr. managed to escape the blaze through the garage. He was treated for smoke inhalation and is now with relatives in Dutchess County.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams On The Story

Fire tore through the two-story home at 20 Wyndham Lane. It broke out shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday.

“Upon arrival, it became quite apparent there was going to be no attempt at an interior attack… it was fully engulfed, fully engulfed. The house was just ablaze,” said Chief Bob Lipton of the Carmel Fire Department, adding 50-70 emergency responders from surrounding areas all showed up to fight the fire.

The structure was almost completely destroyed before the fire was brought under control at 4:45 a.m. The rear wall collapsed first, then the right side followed by the roof. When the flames were put out just before 5 a.m. the operation became a search for bodies, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.

“It’s hard to put into words. You know someone you know for years, the kids grew up together. My heart’s racing. It’s bad, bad as it gets,” neighbor Frank Smith said.

Sullivan Family (Facebook)

An excavator was brought in to sift through the rubble and find the bodies. A partially burned vehicle that had been parked up against the home was removed from the scene. By late Tuesday, cadaver dogs had found all four missing bodies in the ashes, CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported reported.

Investigators said the Sullivan home was equipped with eight wired smoke detectors, but it’s unclear if they were working.
The family never called 911. Their home, made of lightweight, fast burning materials, quickly collapsed, Sanchez reported.

The two teenaged girls and their parents died in the fire, officials said. The son, home from college, escaped. It appears the father tried to sound the alarm. His body was found on the rear deck, where he tried to jump from the flames, Young reported.

“He was screaming and his screams that there was a fire in house woke up his son, who was able to crawl down the stairs and the son was able to open the garage by pulling a string,” Carmel Police Chief Michael Johnson said.

The family’s four Yorkshire terriers also died in the blaze.

Putnam County Executive Mary Ellen Odell told WCBS 880’s Adams that she knew the family well from youth sports.

“[Sullivan] was just a guy with a huge heart. Any of us, at any time, needed anything, if it was a ride or helping hand, Tommy was always the first one there,” she told Adams.

Liz Alfieri, a close friend of the family, called the parents devoted.

“Just truly a fantastic bundle of joy all the time,” Alfieri said.

Sullivan was a 26-year veteran of the Larchmont Police Department. He had previously served in the Bronx with the New York Police Department.

“A man full of integrity. Honesty, family man, very dedicated to both his job and his family,” Larchmont Police Chief John Poleway said.

“Great guy, always a smile on his face, a great individual,” Larchmont Lt. Antonio Rigano added. “I can’t say enough. Just a great, great guy. Devoted to his wife, kids. I don’t have words to tell you. Just a great individual.”

1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports

At Carmel High School, students struggled with the loss Megan, a senior, and Mairead, a freshman.

“When the kids got to school this morning, they all got told, had a moment of silence.  It’s just not fair,” family friend Teresa Carpanac told CBS 2’s Sanchez.

Heartbroken friends are now focusing on the well being of lone survivor Tommy Jr., a student at SUNY Fredonia.

“Young Tommy Sullivan will have a very large family surrounding him to make sure he moves forward knowing that he is very much loved and cared for,” Odell said.

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