Pipestone grad killed after falling into Chicago smokestack
By Jessica D'Onofrio (WLS-TV)
December 13, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A 23-year-old man pulled from a smokestack high atop a Magnificent Mile hotel died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital early Thursday.
Nick Wieme of Chicago was pronounced dead at 5:15 a.m.
The man was on the top of the hotel taking pictures with his girlfriend when he climbed the smokestack for a better shot and fell in. She called 911, and the couple communicated via cell phone for awhile as rescuers worked to get him out.
Fire crews were able to cut a hole in the smokestack that he fell into at the InterContinental Hotel and get him out. Crews got the call to respond to the hotel at 505 North Michigan Avenue just after 1 a.m.
Authorities say he actually climbed up onto the hotel's iconic dome and was in a restricted area above a 42nd floor balcony.
He fell about 22 feet before a structure inside the smokestack broke his fall. Beyond that, there would have been a 42-story drop below.
"The victim fell about 22 feet and was laying in the bottom of the chimney shaft at the 42nd floor. We had members from the top to assess his condition, and the whole time we're monitoring the situation for toxic gases. What we found is the best way to get him out would be go two floors below and we had to cut the ductwork for the chimney, which was made out of steel. We ended up sliding the victim down into the hole and removing him from the building," said one rescuer.
Fire officials say at first the man was mumbling but then he was in and out of consciousness and was able to make very limited communication with them during the confined-space rescue that took hours to undertake.
Dozens of emergency crews responded, blocking off Michigan Avenue between Ohio and Illinois.
The man had been calling and sending messages to his girlfriend throughout the ordeal, Fire Media Affairs said. However, authorities had not been in contact with the man as of about 4:15 a.m.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.