A Chicago firefighter was killed early this morning by falling through an elevator shaft on the second floor in an empty warehouse. Daniel Capuano, 42, was battling a fire at a three-story warehouse in the 9200 block of South Baltimore Avenue when he died.
Firefighters arrived at the scene about 2:40 a.m., with a “mayday” call indicating a firefighter was in distress coming just 16 minutes later at 2:56 a.m., according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago described the scene, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“As the firefighters went in there, they saw some holes throughout the floor. 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.”
The warehouse was under construction, hence the holes in the floors. Although firefighters did send out an alert as soon as they saw the gaps, it was not enough to help Dan. The smoke was quite thick on the second floor, making it very difficult to see hazards as the firefighters searched to find the fire’s source. Larry Langford, the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) spokesman, said there was virtually no visibility for the firefighters, and that just a “glow” could be seen where the blaze was burning.
Capuano had his partner “right next to him” when he fell two stories down to the basement, said Santiago. He was found shortly after at the bottom of the elevator shaft. The first responder crew pulled him out and administered CPR.
“They were able to remove him quickly and get him on the ambulance,” Santiago explained.
Daniel, a 15-year veteran of the CFD, was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center. Santiago went on to say that Capuano was pronounced dead at 4:25 a.m., according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“We hope you can keep the Capuano family in your prayers and the department members who worked with him. This is devastating to the family.”
Dan left behind a wife and three children. He was assigned to Tower Ladder 34 as a firefighter and paramedic and also had worked as a firefighter in south suburban Evergreen Park.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Tower Ladder 34 lost two other members just five years ago, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“On Dec. 22, 2010, firefighters Corey Ankum, 34, of Tower Ladder 34, and Edward Stringer, 47, of Engine Company 63, were killed while battling a blaze at an abandoned laundry at 1744 E. 75th St. in the South Shore neighborhood. The two died after the roof collapsed.”
“Chicago has lost one of its bravest in Dan Capuano,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel in a statement he released.
“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.”
The Police Department and the CFD honored their fallen comrade in a procession outside the Medical Center. Police squad cars closed off Harrison Street from Oakley Avenue to Hoyne Avenue. Two firetrucks were parked facing each other on Harrison Street with their ladders fully extended toward each other. An American flag hung from one.
At the Cook County medical examiner’s office, nearly two dozen CFD members waited outside in the wind and the rain for Dan’s body to be delivered to the morgue, paying homage to the Chicago firefighter killed in service to his city.