Man Dies After Fall Down Hotel Smokestack

The man climbed to the hotel's roof to take photos, firefighters said

By Lauren Petty, Michelle Relerford and Phil Rogers
|  Thursday, Dec 13, 2012  |  Updated 5:27 PM CDT
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Comedian dies after falling down hotel smokestack.

Comedian dies after falling down hotel smokestack.

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Man Dies After Fall Down Hotel Smokestack

A man who climbed to the top of the Intercontinental Hotel, apparently to take a photo, fell down a smokestack and later was pronounced dead. The man was identified as 23-year-old Nicholas Wieme.
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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 Wieme 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.

Wieme 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 Wieme 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 Wieme 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."

The rooftop area of the hotel had once been used as an observation deck, but has long been closed to the public. A fire department source told NBC5 that there was a lock on the door, but when firefighters arrived it was unlocked and had not been forced open.

Wiemes' last post on his Facebook page from Wednesday night said "Kate took me to MJ's Steakhouse," which is located on the hotel's first floor.

The victim grew up in Minnesota and was an aspiring comic and filmmaker who was active in local comedy groups.

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