Gas Employee "A Wonderful Husband and Father"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCChicago.com

    A Peoples Gas worker killed when an underground pipe he was pressure-testing burst apart on Wednesday was a great husband, father and coach, those who knew him say.

    Mike Gryga, 39, from southwest suburban Frankfort was killed when he was struck by pieces of a 20' gas main beneath the area of Wacker and Jackson.

    "They were pumping air through the system when something went wrong," a fire department spokesman said. "It blew the pipe apart, and it hit them."

    No gas was involved, the utility said.

    Gryga was an assistant coach for the Lincoln-Way Blue Wave girls softball team. His daughter, Megan, plays for the organization's 16-and-under team, said Joe Chimienti, who coached with Gryga.

    "I just saw him two days ago at team pictures. I talked to the guy two to three times a week," Chimienti said, adding that Megan and her twin brother, Mike, are sophomores at Lincoln-Way East High School.

    Deanna Blyth, manager of the team, said Gryga was an extremely dedicated coach.

    "Mike was a wonderful assistant. I think the reason is because he's such a wonderful husband and father," Blyth said. "We were fortunate to have him work with the girls."

    A second employee remained in critical condition at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, a Peoples Gas spokeswoman said.

    Kevin Spillers, a trader at the Board of Trade, was walking nearby and jumped into the hole after hearing a loud boom. He helped get the men out of the underground cavern when emergency personnel arrived.

    Spillers told the Chicago Tribune that he doesn't consider himself a hero, but Gryga's siblings disagree. They both wrote e-mails to the newspaper commending Spillers.