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Man dies after fall down hotel smokestack


Nicholas Wieme (inset) died from injuries sustained in a fall down a smokestack at the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago.

A man died Thursday morning after falling 22 feet down a smokestack at the top of the Intercontinental Hotel on Chicago's Michigan Avenue.

The man, identified as 23-year-old Nicholas Wieme of Chicago, was pronounced dead from injuries sustained in the fall.

Firefighters said it appears the man went onto the roof of the hotel on the 500 block of Michigan Avenue to take photos. He apparently climbed a ladder along a smokestack to the top and was up there when he fell into the chimney around 1 a.m.

The man became wedged in an elbow of the shaft, very close to the drop to the basement. After the fall, he was able to either text or call his girlfriend for help.

"We had to cut a hole in the duct work and then slide him down the duct work," said Chief Michael Fox, chief of special operations for the Chicago Fire Department. "It turned very precarious because two feet after we made the hole was a drop that would have went 42 floors to the basement." 

Thirty firefighter companies were called and more than 100 firefighters assisted in the rescue.

"We had to send crews from the top down on ropes to access his condition meanwhile monitoring the situation for toxic gases," Fox said.

Firefighters said for a short time the man was able to speak with them before he lost consciousness. "We figured he lost consciousness because he wasn't communicating with us anymore," Fox said.

Firefighters rescued the man and rushed him in critical condition to Northwestern Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The hotel issued a statement after the incident, noting it "holds the safety, comfort and well-being of our guests and employees as our top priority and concern."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the guest at this difficult time. The hotel staff will continue to cooperate fully with authorities in their investigation."