Man taking pics on top of Intercontinental hotel dies after fall - FOX 32 News Chicago

Minnesota man dies after falling into InterContinental Hotel smokestack

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A 23-year-old man who fell down the smokestack of the InterContinental Hotel did not survive his injuries Thursday.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office identifies the young man as Nicholas Wieme of 4820 North Albany.

He was dining with a girlfriend at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse inside the hotel, and even posted a status about how excited he was that his girlfriend took him there on his Facebook page late Wednesday night.

He was an active participant in Chicago's improv community, including Lincoln Park's improv olympics. Several the Minnesota native's stand-up comedy routines are posted on YouTube.

Sources told FOX 32 News that the door to the roof of the hotel might not have been locked.

Officials said that Wieme found his way to the old observation deck atop the InterContinental because he wanted to take pictures. He climbed the side ladder on the smokestack next to the dome, he got on top, and then he slipped and fell into the chimney.

An elbow in the structure broke his fall at 22 feet, but he was lodged in 42 stories above the street level. Officials said he was able to call 911 and text his girlfriend for help, who was on the roof with him before he fell.

Michigan Avenue was shut down at 1:00 a.m. between Illinois Street and Grand Avenue while fire crews attempted a confined space rescue, according to Fire Media Affairs. About 100 CFD personnel were on scene. The boiler was shut off in the building, and firefighters lowered themselves in using harnesses while other teams cut into the steel shaft to remove the man.

"We had cut a hole in the duct word and had to slide him down the duct work," one team member said. "It was very precarious, because two feet [further] was a drop that went 42 floors to the basement. It took a while to shore it up, so when we brought him out he would not fall into the basement. "

Firefighters lost contact with Wieme for about an hour. When they got to him, they thought he had passed out from suffering burns and smoke inhalation, and that the chimney was full of soot. They transported him to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in "severely critical condition."

The medical examiner's office said Wieme died at the scene.

Wieme took up the hobby of stand-up comedy while in college at Minnesota State University in Moorhead, Minn., his family said in a statement. After graduating in 2011, he followed his dream to Chicago, where he switched from comedy to improv and found even more success.

"Those that watched him perform often attested that Nick had a way of unintentionally `stealing the show,' " said his sister-in-law, Jamie Wieme. "Nick's amazing talents were only topped by fierce love and loyalty to his family and friends. Nick was truly a family man, a phenomenal friend (as literally hundreds would attest to), and would do anything to help anyone."

Wieme performed on a regular basis at various clubs, including iO Theater, one of Chicago's top comedy companies. His friends and colleagues gathered there to mourn his loss Thursday afternoon.

Wieme had been with iO for close to two years, said his coach, Matt Higbee. He won a spot on Higbee's team about eight months ago. Only about 10 percent of the students there make teams, so Wieme's selection was a testament to his talent, Higbee said.

"Nick was a tenacious artist. He always wanted to affect people with the work that he did in his art. He was not only a skilled improviser but a really great filmmaker and a fabulous storyteller above all. He just had really joyous energy, and approached his work in comedy and as well as life with complete playfulness," Higbee said.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office said the cause of death will not be available until Friday afternoon.

In a statement Thursday, the hotel's general manager, Raymond Vermolen, said his staff is cooperating fully with authorities' investigation.

Police have talked to Wieme's girlfriend, but she has yet to speak to the media.

 

The Sun-Times Media Wire and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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