A 23-year-old Minnesota man pursuing his dream of becoming an actor and comedian in Chicago died in a bizarre accident after he fell 22 feet into a smokestack on the roof of the 42-story Intercontinental Hotel.
Police say the Pipestone, Minn., native survived the initial fall at the Michigan Avenue landmark. Officials say he and his girlfriend took an elevator to explore when they found an unsecured door to the roof. Investigators say Nick Wieme climbed to the top of the smoke stack to take pictures when he fell.
The roof is not supposed to be accessible to the public.
Videos show Wieme performing stand-up sets in Fargo while he was a college student in Moorhead, but he moved to Chicago to begin pursuing improve with a troupe called "The Clinic."
His final Facebook post made late Wednesday said a member of that troupe, identified as his girlfriend, had taken him to Michael Jordan's steakhouse, which is located inside the hotel.
At about 1 a.m., he tumbled down into the smokestack and rescuers soon sent members down with ropes to assess his condition and monitor for toxic gases.
Wieme got caught where the Chimney took a turn, but was surrounded by soot. He was still able to use his cell phone until about 3:15 a.m., but rescuers say the communication mostly consisted of mumbling.
A total of 125 firefighters and paramedics were called to the scene, and they extracted him by going about two floors down and cutting steel ductwork out of the chimney. He was freed at about 5 a.m., but he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Wieme's family is well-known in and around his hometown, where his father, Bernie, has been the on the air with a local radio station for 32 years. Many friends and loved ones on Facebook described him as a creative, funny young man who was larger than life.