Chicago firefighter dies after falling down elevator shaft

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CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago firefighter died early Monday after falling two stories down an elevator shaft while fighting a smoky blaze in a warehouse on the city's South Side.

Firefighter Daniel Capuano, 42, was searching for the source of the blaze on the second floor, but he couldn't see because of heavy smoke and fell down the shaft to the basement, Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago said.

"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."

Other firefighters quickly reached Capuano, a father of three, and got him to an ambulance, Santiago said. Capuano was pronounced dead at 4:25 a.m. at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

"This is devastating to the family," Santiago said.

The owners of the building didn't have proper permitting for some construction work in the building, and a removal of the elevator and other structural alterations were underway without authorization, according to city Building Department spokeswoman Mimi Simon. City officials said they were still confirming the building's ownership.

Capuano, a 15-year veteran, was assigned to Tower Ladder 34 and previously worked as a firefighter in suburban Evergreen Park. Another Tower Ladder 34 firefighter, Corey Ankum, was one of two who died while fighting a blaze at an abandoned laundry five years ago.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement that Capuano made the "ultimate sacrifice" to protect the safety of others. Chicago firefighters and police officers lined the streets in rainy weather later Monday morning outside the Cook County medical examiner's office as a procession brought Capuano's body from the hospital.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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