SOMERVILLE, NJ – A husband, his wife and their daughter 13-year-old daughter, a freshman at Hillsborough High School, have been identified as the three people found dead after a late-night apartment fire in Hillsborough on Monday, Oct. 24.
Acting Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson identified the individuals as Vinod B. Damodaran, 44; his wife, Sreeja Thekkekoical-Sasi, 38; and their daughter, Aardra V. Nair. The New Jersey Regional Medical Examiner’s Office, with the assistance of a forensic odonatologist, made the positive identification, according to Robertson.
One body was discovered in a bedroom; the other two victims were found elsewhere in the second floor apartment at Hillsborough Gardens on Farm Road.
The fire was first reported at 9:52 p.m. Police evacuated the other residents living in the 16-unit building. The fire was subsequently contained.
Dr. Jorden Schiff, Superintendent of Schools, circulated a letter to students and parents on Friday:
"It is with deep sadness that I share with you the loss of one of our students. Recently, the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office informed me that Aardra Nair, freshman at Hillsborough High School, was identified as one of the fatalities found at the site of the apartment fire on Farm Road.
"Grief counseling will be available for any student or staff member needing additional support. If your child would like to see a counselor, he or she should let a teacher know, or you can contact the school office. We will make certain that your child is provided the necessary assistance. Our thoughts and condolences are with the Nair's family and friends during this most difficult of times."
Karen Bingert, HHS principal, described Aardra as "a sweet, bright young woman, who will be greatly missed by the HHS family."
An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing, according to Robertson. Agencies involved include the Hillsborough Township Police detectives along with detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit, the Crime Scene Investigations and Forensics Unit, the Arson Task Force, New Jersey State Fire Investigators/K-9, Hillsborough Township Fire Inspector, and Investigators from the New Jersey Northern Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.
The circumstances involving the fire, cause and manner of death, is an active investigation pending further studies by investigators and the Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.
Fire and emergency units that responded included:
- Hillsborough Fire 36 and 36 Ladder
- Hillsborough Emergency Medical Service Units
- Hillsborough Woods Road Fire 37-102 and 37-103
- Neshanic 48 Fire
- Hillsborough 38-151
- Raritan Borough Fire
- Somerset County Communications OEM
- Hillsborough Township OEM
- Red Cross