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Nicholas Wieme Dies After Falling Into Smokestack on Intercontinental Hotel — 42 Stories Up

Thu December 13 2012 1:06 pm
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VIDEO: Scene at 505 North Michigan Avenue while firefighters worked to free Nicholas Wieme from a smokestack.

Chicago firefighters made sure Nicholas Wieme, 23 didn’t fall any further down the 42-story full length of a hotel smokestack at the Intercontinental Hotel, 505 North Michigan Avenue. That was their first priority. Rescuers from 30 Chicago Fire Department fire and rescue companies and about 125 firefighters and paramedics responded about 1:10 a.m. Thursday to a report that a man fell in a smokestack. Initially there was some confusion that a man was threatening to jump, but that turned out to be false.

Firefighters responded to the hotel after the victim was able to communicate with his girlfriend, Kate Henrikson, via text messages and phone calls to describe his predicament. When firefighters arrived they discovered the Wieme had fallen about 22 feet down from the top of the 6-foot diameter hot smokestack above the roof of the hotel. He was caught or wedged in a bend where the smokestack made one turn before heading straight down the full 42 floors.

The couple were on the roof for the view when Wieme got into an unsecured area on the roof, climbed into the dome, and then a ladder on the smoke smokestack. He was trying to take a better picture when he took a bad step and fell into the smokestack. Hotel officials immediately turned off the boiler. Firefighters, as part of the Collapse Rescue Unit 5-2-1, Collapse Rescue Unit 5-2-2, HazMat Incident Unit 5-1-2, Squad 1, Squad 2, engine crews, truck crews and paramedic crews worked together, checked Weime’s well-being, monitored carbon monoxide levels, and checked the structure to develop a rescue strategy.

Firefighters cut sideways into the steel ductwork lining of the smokestack just below Wieme, and placed wood boards blocking the chute to function to provide a temporary floor, so he couldn’t fall down 42 floors.

Firefighters used harnesses to lower themselves down from the top of the smokestack to check on the condition of Wieme. They also checked the environmental conditions where he was positioned. There was concern that the air quality could contain dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or other pollutants or heat conditions. Levels of carbon monoxide were reported to be normal. Rescuers slid Wieme down to the opening they had cut, and brought him to safety.

About 3:15 a.m. no further communications were heard from Wieme. He was removed out of a hole cut into the steel ductwork, and transported at about 4:20 a.m to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was prounounced dead at about 5:00 a.m.

Weime was registered as Nick Weime with a comedy website, Rooftop Comedy. He recently moved to the North Side of Chicago to pursue a career in improv. He graduated from Minnesota State University at Moorhead.

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Google maps 45° view showing yellow dome where Nicholas Weime accessed ladder to smoke stack.

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