UPDATED: Carmel House Fire Kills Police Captain and His Family
In very early morning hours of Tuesday, May 1, Thomas Sullivan Sr., who was a captain with the Larchmont Police Department, ran through his home on Wyndham Lane in the Hamlet of Carmel calling out to his family that the house was on fire, Carmel Police Chief Michael Johnson said at a press conference later that day.
Thomas Jr. heard the calls and ran for the garage. With the power already out, the 20-year-old yanked on a rope that released the garage door and made it outside. He was the only person in his family to survive the fire.
The body of Thomas Sr. was later found on the back deck. Chief Johnson said it was believed he jumped from the second floor of the home.
His wife Donna, and his two daughters, Meaghan, 18, who was a senior at Carmel High School, and Mairead, 13, who was a freshman at Carmel High School are believed to have been trapped in the home, when the roof collapsed in on the second floor.
Chief Johnson said the condition of two bodies that already were recovered from inside of the home were so badly burned they could not be identified until after autopsies had been completed and that the search for the third body inside of the home would continue.
Chief Johnson said the investigation was very preliminary as of Tuesday and that no determinations could be made as to the origins and cause of the fire.
“Whether it was suspicious or not is still being investigated,” Chief Johnson said.
Chief Johnson said that it was believed there were eight fire alarms in the home, but the heat of the fire was so severe that it may never be possible to determine if they were operating properly.
Chief Johnson said that no 9-1-1 calls were received from the Sullivan home, but that several neighbors had called to report the fire in their neighborhood.
The first call came in at 1:53 a.m. Responding to the scene, Kent and Carmel Police Officers came upon the home totally engulfed in flames. Volunteer firefighters from Carmel, Lake Carmel, Mahopac and Brewster put out the fire that took until almost 5 a.m. to entirely extinguish. New York State K-9 units were credited with finding the bodies in the rubble.
Later on Tuesday afternoon, hoses attached to fire hydrants in the neighborhood snaked up the street to the home.
Wyndham Lane was closed off and emergency vehicles and officials’ cars lined the hill winding up to the home that was not visible from the barricade below. Just as prevalent were Town of Carmel Highway Department trucks that had brought in an excavator to dig through the scorched rubble of the home and that later delivered large spotlights.
News of the house fire and the death of four members of the Sullivan Family spread quickly. By the time students arrived at Carmel High School on Tuesday morning, a moment of silence was held to honor the passing of two well-known and well-liked students.
After the last bell rung on Tuesday, one of Meaghan Sullivan’s teachers walked down the sidewalk in front of the school, her eyes blood-shot and full of tears.
“She was the most loving child,” her teacher said, adding that each and every morning Meaghan would loudly and happily call out her teacher’s name as she entered the classroom. “That wasn’t there this morning.”
Two other female students remembered Meaghan’s bright, cheerful spirit.
“Meaghan was such a sweet girl,” one of the students said. “She was so nice to everyone.”
Her friend agreed.
“She was a good-hearted person,” the student said. “That’s rare.”
Another female student standing outside of the high school said that she was saddened by the news. It was only yesterday during 8th period when she had been chatting with Maired, who was better known to kids at school as “Mary,” about tennis during gym class.
Also present at the Tuesday afternoon press conference were Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Carmel Town Supervisor Schmitt and the Larchmont Police John Poleway, all of whom were visibly emotional.
“The residents of the Town of Carmel, and of Putnam County as a whole, mourn the loss of…four members of our community. Our condolences are extended to Tom Jr. and the other relatives of the Sullivan family,” Chief Johnson said.
County Executive Odell, a resident of the Hamlet of Carmel, personally knew the Sullivan family.
“Our community suffered a terrible, terrible loss. A terrible tragedy today. Tommy and Donna Sullivan were wonderful parents. They were very community driven. They loved their community,” County Executive Odell said. “They gave everything that they could to their kids and their family and the community. Tommy Sullivan will have a very large family now surrounding him to make sure that he moves forward and knows that he is very much loved and cared for.”
Thomas Jr. was treated for smoke inhalation and was released from the hospital by Tuesday afternoon and was staying with extended family.
Larchmont Police Chief Poleway also spoke about his colleague, Capt. Thomas Sullivan.
“Words escape me. I knew him for 18 years professionally. He was always a man full of integrity, honesty, a family man. Very dedicated to both his job and his family. He certainly is going to be missed,” Chief Poleway said, also thanking the Carmel Police Department for helping to support the Larchmont Police Department deal with the loss.
Adam has worked in the local news industry for the past two decades in Westchester County and the broader Hudson Valley. Read more from Adam’s author bio here.