ODESSA — After years investigating crimes as a New York City police detective and spending some of his retirement in Long Island, James Mongan decided with his wife to make a new life in Florida.
Mongan and his wife, Paulet, picked the Silver Dollar Golf and Trap Club community, a sprawling neighborhood of tidy mobile homes in Hillsborough County. He loved to shoot trap at the neighborhood range, a short golf cart ride from the couple's doublewide home on Golf Vista Court.
The Mongans were home early Monday when a fire broke out, authorities said. Paulet was able to escape but Mongan, 79, died inside. The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office released their names Wednesday.
Paulet, a 64-year-old retired registered nurse, suffered smoke inhalation and is recovering, said the couple's son, James Mongan Jr.
"I can't imagine how she must feel," he said. "She says she's okay, but I don't know. It's a horrible circumstance to have been through."
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue crews arrived at the couple's home about 5:40 a.m. and found it engulfed in flames. Paulet Mongan, 64, had fled to a neighbor's house and was rushed to the hospital.
Neighbors told the Times that they heard Paulet screaming for help because her husband was still inside the home. Fire crews put out the fire and found his body inside.
Investigators said Wednesday the fire appears to have been started by candles left burning after the couple went to sleep. The final cause of the fire, however, remains under investigation.
The Mongans had smoke alarms in their home but they never sounded. That is also being investigated.
Born in Brooklyn to Irish immigrants, James Mongan grew up poor, his son said. He started as a patrolman for the New York City Police Department and worked his way up to detective.
After he retired, he and Paulet moved to Long Island and then to Florida about 18 years ago. He has sisters here and a friend of his knew about the Silver Dollar community, his son said.
He was an avid reader, attended a nearby Catholic church regularly and enjoyed spending time with his fellow Knights of Columbus. He used a walker and sometimes a motorized wheelchair, his son said.
He leaves behind three children.
"He was a devoted father," James Jr. said.
Times staff writer Anastasia Dawson contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.