A Chicago firefighter died Monday morning after falling several stories while battling a fire at a Loop restaurant.
Christopher Wheatley was ascending a ladder carrying equipment to battle a grease-chute fire that broke out at Avec Restaurant, 615 W. Randolph St. around 12:30 when he fell three or four stories.
"He was going up a fire escape to the roof when he slipped and fell," Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford said.
"We tried to save his life, but it was too late," said Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff.
Those who worked with Wheatley, a 10-year veteran of the department, remembered him as a true team player.
"He's a great guy, a stand-up guy," said Scott Buckley who was there when Wheatley fell. "He loved his sports, riding on his boat with his fiance and loved his family. ... Chris will always be part of our team."
Fellow firefighter Brian Reese said he was carefree during the off hours but serious when he was on the job.
Top officials at the fire department shared the sentiment.
"He was one of our best," Hoff said, close to tears. "He was very well liked. He was a hard worker and he always had a smile on his face."
The 31-year-old firefighter is survived by his mother, father, sister and fiance.
Late Monday, the family released a statement through the Chicago Fire Department. It reads, in part:
- Chris lived his life to the fullest; he put everything he had into both work and play. He loved his family more than anyone can ever know. He loved people he had known all his life and was just as caring for those he had just met. He was a fantastic son, brother, brother in law, cousin, nephew, friend and firefighter. He loved not only his friends and family but those he served in the City of Chicago and well as his fire department brothers and sisters. Chris’ Mother, Mary Wheatley, says the loss of her son is a hole that can never be filled but she is comforted by his memory and his impact on the lives of others and will always remember that he helped and touched so many in his life and career.
His fiancée Jessica wants everyone to know that Chris was a man who always had a smile on his face and he made her laugh each and everyday. She says; “I was lucky to have him in my life. He was a true beacon of life, laughter and love. He loved all of us and made sure he told us everyday.” She adds that; “He will never be forgotten. He died doing what he loved. He was the most generous and loyal man I have ever known, and he lived his life as an example to others.” She called him her “Mr. Chicago” who was in love with the traditions and people of the Chicago Fire Department.
His sister Kim and brother-in-law Chris Skubic want everyone to know that Chris always dreamed of becoming a Chicago Firefighter. “He always told us to spend our lives living our dreams and loving those around us.” Chris loved his teams as well as his friends and family. He was a devoted Cubs and Blackhawks fan and was an “intense” Chicago Bears supporter.