Friends mourn loss of 'wonderful' family
VideosGrief counselors on hand at Carmel H.S. after fatal fire Larchmont community shocked by death of police captain Carmel fire kills Larchmont police captain, family
GalleriesCarmel fire claimed four lives
Thomas Sullivan was a powerful, high-ranking officer with the Larchmont Police Department, but those who knew him considered him a "teddy bear."
"He was a great guy," Larchmont Police Lt. Antonio Rigano said of Sullivan, who had risen through the ranks during more than 20 years with the force. "He always had a smile on his face."
On Tuesday, friends and neighbors of Sullivan mourned the tragic deaths of the 48-year-old police captain; his wife, Donna, 47; and their daughters, Meghan 18, and Mairead, 15. The family died in the early-morning hours from a rapidly moving fire, which left Thomas Sullivan's 20-year-old son, Tommy Jr., as the sole survivor.
"Tommy was the absolute heart of the Police Department," Larchmont Mayor Anne McAndrews said of Sullivan, who was second in command of the Larchmont force.
"Big Tommy was a role model for kids, adults and parents," said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell. "He was a man of great integrity and compassion. He gave everything to his friends, family and community."
Sullivan's family was equally beloved.
"They were a wonderful family," said Odell, who added that she knew the police officer as a coach for her son's teams in the Carmel Sports Association.
"Our boys went to Kennedy Catholic High School together," she said. "They were very close and always hanging around. ... Tommy was a very good friend."
"They always said, 'Hi,' " said neighbor Betty Morais, who recalled the family's unfailing friendliness. "It's shocking for the whole neighborhood."
Grief counselors were deployed Tuesday at Carmel High School, where Meghan and Mairead were students.
"Our school community is devastated, and we are working together in the very difficult time to offer support to students and staff," Schools Superintendent James Ryan said in a statement.
At nearby Arms Acres, a drug abuse treatment center where Donna Sullivan worked, two impromptu afternoon prayer services were held for staffers Tuesday.
Donna was "very quiet, a very happy person," said Arms Acres co-worker Shari Cushnie, 49. "She kept to herself a lot, but she was a very good, happy person, a caring person -- you have to be in this job because people are coming in with their struggles."
While friends and neighborhoods alike grieved for the family Tuesday, their hearts went out to Tommy Jr., a student at SUNY Fredonia who was taking a semester off to stay home and attend community college.
"This community will wrap its arms around young Tommy and give him everything he needs," Odell said.
News 12 contributed to this story.