A Homewood firefighter is dead and another in critical condition after battling a ferocious blaze in the south suburb. The man they were trying to save, an 84-year-old bound to a wheelchair, also died.
Firefighter Brian Carey, 28, died at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest from injuries sustained fighting the fire on the 17600 block of Lincoln Avenue. Carey became a firefighter just two months ago.
Wendell Elias, a wheelchair bound man, died in his front lawn as firefighters tried to resuscitate him.
Neighbors believe the elderly man’s oxygen tanks added fuel to the fire.
"I had seen him around in his wheel chair, but from what I heard they say it was oxygen blowing up," said Sue Tomlinson. "The whole sky was orange and there’s smoke bellowing out."
His wife, Bertha Coon Elias, told the Chicago Tribune that she rushed into the living room to see a small fire on her husband's reclining chair.
Another neighbor was terrified by the flames.
"There was popping noises and when we looked out the window, we saw flames shooting out the side of the house," Amy Carlson said. "Knowing that the couple that lives there, the gentleman that lives there is in a motorized wheel chair he’s had at least one stroke and he is on oxygen, so I can only assume that that was the noise that we heard."
Fire officials would not confirm that oxygen tanks played a role in the blaze.
Carey's family remembers him as an active adreniline-loving son who wanted to be a firefighter from the time he was five.
Twenty-four fire departments responded to the fire.