A police captain, his wife and two teenage daughters died in a fire that swept through their home in Carmel, N.Y., Tuesday morning, 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.
The cause of the fire wasn't known, but the Carmel Police Department said it planned an intensive investigation. The bodies hadn't been removed from the ruins at midday.
Thomas Sullivan, a captain in the Larchmont Police Department, was a former NYPD 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, Mairead and Meaghan, were students at Carmel High School. Mairead was a freshman and Meaghan a senior. Their ages were not immediately available. Their mother, Donna Sullivan, also died.
"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."
Only a 20-year-old son, Thomas Sullivan Jr., escaped the flames. He was being treated for smoke inhalation, Carmel police said.
The blaze was so intense that it melted the siding of two nearby homes and prevented firefighters from entering, said Carmel Police Chief Michael Johnson. It took firefighters from several towns three hours to extinguish the flames.
"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.