Fatal Blaze: Updates from Police, Fire Investigator, Coroner

All three weighed in Thursday morning.

Officials are continuing their probe into the cause of the tragic Carmel house fire that claimed four lives early Tuesday.

Larchmont Police Capt. Thomas Sullivan, 49, and three family members died in a rapid blaze that caused the home at 19 Wyndham Lane to collapse—just 10 minutes after emergency responders arrived.

Sullivan's wife Donna, 48, and the couple's teenage daughters, Meaghan and Mairead, perished in the fire. Their son Thomas Jr., 20, was able to escape through the garage after .

Here is what authorities told Patch Thursday morning:

"Not Ruling Anything Out"

Capt. Daniel Tompkins of the Putnam County Fire Investigation Team said the agency's investigation is ongoing, and that no "definite cause" has been established. He reiterated that officials aren't eliminating any possibilities, including arson.

"We're not saying we see any evidence of it," he said. "At the same token, we're not ruling it out."

On Wednesday, the team sent several cans of fire debris to a New York State Police Lab for analysis. Turnaround on the samples could take several weeks, according to Tompkins.

include police confirmation that the house was reportedly equipped with eight smoke alarms. Whether the devices functioned properly was unclear. Tompkins said determining as much would be difficult—based on the "amount of fire" and wreckage. Preliminary interviews with the lone survivor indicate that he did not hear any alarms. Tompkins told Patch that this does not necessarily mean the devices did not sound.

In an effort to establish and confirm a timeline of events, the team also interviewed several neighbors.

Many of the homes in the development were built 10 to 15 years ago. that the house collapsed about 10 minutes after responders arrived. He said that materials used to build the home contributed to the rate at which flames engulfed the Sullivan house.

Tompkins echoed those sentiments, adding that increased flammability is a "nationwide situation with all new construction." More glue, presswood and vinyl—and fewer nails and sheets of plywood—make for a structure that's more likely to burn.

He said that a sprinkler system also could have made a difference.

"Had this building been sprinkled, it definitely would have helped the occupants."

Cause of Death

Putnam County Coroner William Stahl said that all four of the victims died from asphyxiation, due to inhalation of smoke and carbon monoxide.

Autopsies were completed Tuesday night, Stahl told Patch, and the remainder of the post-mortem exam—which focuses on histology and toxicology—is underway.

'Out of Respect for the Victims'

Carmel Police released an update Thursday morning noting that officials interviewed Thomas, Jr. for three and a half hours on Wednesday. They said the investigation is ongoing and that they would be halting official comments "out of respect for Tom Jr." and relatives .

"Tom Jr. was able to provide additional details of what occurred that night and clarify questions that law and fire personnel needed to know in order to proceed with the investigation," police said in a statement. "The investigation is continuing, and neighbors; responding emergency personnel who responded to the fire; and anyone else who could supply additional information will be interviewed and/or re-interviewed by detectives of the Carmel Police Department and ."

Police Chief Mike Johnson would not comment Thursday morning on whether a police dog found any traces of accelerant in the wreckage. He would not elaborate on details of the interview with the lone survivor.

Authorities plan to reconvene next week to "share and evaluate any information we are able to obtain in order to ascertain the cause of the fire."

The blaze reportedly originated on the north side of the front of the home. Police are no longer monitoring the scene.

Ashley Tarr May 03, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Carmel Police Chief Mike Johnson also said this in the statement: "On behalf of the Town of Carmel Police Department, I wish to share our condolences to Tom Jr. and the relatives of the Sullivan family on this tragic loss to them and to the community. The Town of Carmel Police Department as well as other law enforcement agencies in Putnam County will be assisting the New York State Police and Larchmont Police Department concerning the wake and funeral arrangements for the victims. It is anticipated that funeral will be well attended because of the numerous friends, colleagues, and family of all the deceased."
Linda Turturino May 03, 2012 at 10:15 PM
this is such a loss ...a second major fire in this area in 5 months... people need to be more aware of their homes and put in smoke detectors, co2 alarms, have an escape plan. I was in a fire when I was 7 years old I dont remember much but it was January and below zero we did not have fire damage but lost everything we owned to smoke and water. I am always aware of my surroundings and always look for a exit when at a concert hall or large enclosed area. Hugs and prayers for the Sullivan family and Tom Jr who life is changed forever
tony May 06, 2012 at 04:32 PM
so after questioning the son for 3 hrs ,the police did not rule out arson ?so how did the fire start ?
Ashley Tarr May 06, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Hi Tony. Police still have not released information on a cause. They said the investigation could take weeks.


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