Updated Friday, December 14, 2012 at 05:51 AM
CHICAGO — A man trying to photograph the downtown skyline from the top of the InterContinental Hotel in Chicago died Thursday after falling 22 feet down a smokestack, authorities said.
It took rescue crews four hours to remove Nicholas Wieme, 23. He had fallen down a 6-foot wide smokestack and was wedged where the chute angled before dropping 42 floors, Fire Department spokeswoman Meg Ahlheim said.
“We had to send members from the top down on ropes to assess his condition. The whole time we’re monitoring the situation for toxic gases,” said Special Operations Chief Michael Fox. “We found the best way to get him out was to go about two floors below, and we had to cut the duct work for the chimney, which was made out of steel. And eventually we ended up sliding the victim down into the hole and removing him from the building.”
At one point, rescue crews wedged boards in the chute to keep him from falling farther.
Wieme was unconscious when firefighters arrived, according to District Fire Chief Kevin Krasneck, and was pronounced dead later at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
When firefighters learned Wieme had fallen down the smokestack, a “confined space rescue” was called, bringing 30 companies and about 125 firefighters and paramedics to the scene.
Wieme and his girlfriend had dined on Michigan Avenue on Wednesday evening and decided to “explore” the hotel, according to a source. They took the elevator up and somehow got on the roof, authorities said.
Wieme began to take pictures and climbed a ladder along the chimney, police said. Moments later, his girlfriend lost sight of him.
Wieme, an aspiring comedian, grew up in Minnesota but recently moved to Chicago.