A veteran Chicago firefighter died Monday morning after falling through an elevator shaft while battling a blaze in a South Side factory.
Dan Capuano was among the firefighters dispatched to a three-story warehouse fire at 9213 S. Baltimore just before 2:30 a.m. after heavy smoked could be seen billowing out of the rear of the building.
While fighting the flames, the 42-year-old married father of three fell through a floor that gave out, and down an elevator shaft to the building’s basement.
Capuano was a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department, according to fire commissioner Jose Santiago. He and his family planned to celebrate the upcoming holiday in Florida.
"As the firefighters went in there they saw some holes throughout the floor," Santiago said. "They gave out an emergency alert, 'Be careful.' It looks like Firefighter Daniel had just walked into the elevator shaft as he was searching, couldn't see and fell."
A mayday call was immediately sent to emergency responders and soon after Capuano was wheeled into an ambulance that arrived at the scene and rushed to Oak Lawn’s Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he died of his injuries.
"Chicago has lost one of its bravest in Dan Capuano," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday. "As a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department, Dan spent his career putting the safety of others ahead of his own. He made the ultimate sacrifice so Chicago's residents could be safe. For that, there are no words that can truly express our sorrow for his loss nor our gratitude for his service and sacrifice to the City of Chicago. The thoughts and prayers of a grateful city are with Dan, his family, and his fellow firefighters at this difficult time."
Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford called the death an "inexcusable" safety lapse.
"There is absolutely no protection to keep the firefighter from falling in," Langford said. "It could have been something as simple as pylons and a rope or a more substantial barrier, that was not there it was just floor and then hole."
Additionally, the owners of the building lacked a proper permitting for some construction that was taking place in the building, and a removal of the elevator and other structural alterations were underway without authorization, Chicago Building Department spokeswoman Mimi Simon said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The Capuano Memorial Fund has been established for anyone who would like to make donations to the family.