As flames shot from a suburban apartment building on Wednesday afternoon, dramatic footage captured the moment that a resident, clinging to the railing of a balcony, fell four stories in their attempt to escape the blaze.
The video showed the resident clinging to a column on the outside of the Park Towers apartment building in suburban Richton Park.
“I seen him force the door open. He sort of forced the fire on this side, and got on this side,” the person who shot the cell phone video said.
The man held onto the column for as long as he could, then fell to the ground.
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“He couldn’t take it any more,” the resident said.
That resident dropped his cell phone when the man fell, rushing to his aid.
“We were just asking where the trucks were at,” he said. “We didn’t even hear ‘em coming.”
Richton Park fire officials say that their efforts to combat the blaze were hampered by several obstacles, including a non-working fire hydrant that forced them to change tactics when they arrived on scene.
Ronald Rosser, who lives on the sixth floor of the building, says he had to wait several hours for rescue.
“The entire hallway was completely filled with smoke. I couldn’t see my hand in front of me. It was that bad,” he said. “I tried to go down the steps, but I couldn’t breathe. It was too hot.”
Tracey Whitney, who lives below where the fire started, said that residents began to smell smoke and feel heat from the blaze, with no warning systems alerting them to the fire.
“The smoke detectors never went off. They never went off,” she said.
Residents say that building management has not been responsive to their complaints of damage in other instances, and that they hope the fire will spur real changes.
“It’s beyond the fire,” Kathy Power, who lives in the building, said. “Hopefully this fire will get something accomplished to where they need to get done.”
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Tyra Morgan added. “My unit always has water damage, and I can’t use my master bedroom closet for anything.”
At least five people were hurt in the fire. Richton Park fire officials say that the man who fell from the side of the building is in serious condition, and is being treated for his injuries at a local hospital.