ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea sent a flash report to NASA Hq.: "During a simulated countdown for mission AS-204 on January 27, 1967, an accident occurred in CM 012. This was a manned test with the prime astronaut crew on board. A fire occurred inside the command module resulting in the death of the three astronauts and as yet undetermined damage to the command and service modules." The launch had been scheduled for February 21.
The Director, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, was alerted during late evening and informed that the accident had taken the lives of astronauts Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee.
Later that evening a request for autopsy support was received and three pathologists and a medical photographer were sent to Cape Kennedy on an Air Force aircraft. Team members were Col. Edward H. Johnston, USA; Cdr. Charles J. Stahl, USN; Capt. Latimer E. Dunn, USAF; and T/Sgt Larry N. Hale, USAF.
The postmortem examinations began at 11 a.m. January 28 at the USAF Bioastronautic Operational Support Unit and were completed at 1 a.m. the following day.