Ambulances and two helicopters were dispatched to the fire at the home of Cooper University Health System's chief executive and his wife during a significant attempt to save the couple last month, according to a dispatch log released to The Inquirer on Wednesday.
John P. Sheridan Jr. and his wife, Joyce, were unresponsive when pulled Sept. 28 from the second-story master bedroom in the home in the Skillman section of Montgomery Township, Somerset County, N.J. As medics tried to revive both, rescue teams continued searching for another victim, possibly a son who also lived there.
In the course of an effort that lasted more than an hour, John Sheridan, 72, was pronounced dead, and Joyce Sheridan, 69, went into cardiac arrest.
The dispatch record, known as a CAD (computer-aided dispatch) log and obtained through a public records request, offers a look at the resources employed to save the Sheridans after their bedroom had been set on fire. Three firefighters went to hospitals, but their injuries, if any, were not clear.
Somerset County authorities did not respond Wednesday to requests for information about the firefighters' conditions after the blaze or to elaborate on the details of the dispatch log.
John Sheridan, a Republican insider known for shaping public policy, was declared dead at the scene at 7:23 a.m. after efforts to resuscitate him failed. Joyce Sheridan, a retired schoolteacher, was in cardiac arrest when she was taken to Princeton Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. No time of death was listed on the dispatch log.
While the dispatch record offers some insight into the early morning blaze, many questions remain. The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office has said the arson was confined to the bedroom, but authorities have not said whether they know who set it or why.
The Prosecutor's Office has also not said whether the Sheridans had injuries beyond those sustained in the fire or whether authorities have made preliminary determinations of what caused their deaths.
The office has said it is waiting to receive and review laboratory analyses before releasing the findings of its investigation.
What can be determined from the dispatch log released Wednesday and information previously reported is that after a neighbor called 911 at 6:13 a.m. to report smelling smoke, there was an intensive response to save those in the house.
Ambulances were called for the Sheridans and three firefighters and medics administered CPR and rescue crews continued searching for a possible third victim.
The dispatch log notes six vehicles at the location.
Tom Wilson, a friend of the family, said one of the Sheridans' four grown sons lived with his parents, but was away with friends that weekend. Wilson did not say which son lived there.
"One of the neighbors may have mentioned that there was another person living in the house," Wilson said.
On Friday, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey D. Soriano issued a statement that said, in part, "At this point in our investigation, we are very confident that the four sons of John and Joyce Sheridan played no role in the death of their mother and father."
The dispatch record shows the response involved dozens of rescue workers including police, firefighters, and medical workers. According to the 911 call released last week, the neighbor who first alerted authorities to the fire tried to open the front door, but could not get in. He told the dispatcher he thought someone on the second floor was trying to get out.
Jack Bennett, spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office, said last week that investigators determined the neighbor and first responders heard sounds from the fire, not either of the Sheridans trying to escape. Officials have said there is no threat to the public.
According to the dispatch record, police arrived at 6:16 a.m. At 6:29, the basement and first floor were cleared. At 6:47, the first victim was taken out, but it does not specify whether it was John or Joyce Sheridan. Ten minutes later, the second victim was removed while firefighters continued to battle the blaze.
At 7 a.m., two helicopters were requested. Medics noted the first victim had multiple burns, and CPR was in progress. Crews on the ground were calling for enough EMS units to transport four to five people.
At 7:09, the fire had "been knocked down//still searching for possible victims." At 7:19, three firefighters were transported to the hospital for assessment.
At 7:23, John Sheridan was pronounced dead at the scene. At 7:25, the "fire extinguished//ventilating structure//looking for possible third victim."
At 7:26, the helicopters were canceled.
According to a dispatch note recorded at 7:40, Joyce Sheridan was in cardiac arrest and had been taken to the hospital.
Nearly an hour and a half after the fire was reported, at 7:44, officials said they were breaking down fire apparatus.
Dispatch records do not reflect when Joyce Sheridan was pronounced dead, but the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety was notified of a double fatality by 9:23.