BEVERLY — Terry McShane's heart broke when he heard the news of Chicago firefighter Daniel Capuano's fatal fall down an elevator shaft on Monday.
McShane, of Beverly, lost his brother, Craig, in an eerily similar way on Sept. 22, 1981. Craig McShane, then just 23, was battling a blaze at a Downtown office building when he fell 16 floors down an open elevator shaft.
"My wife was watching the news, and she called to tell me. That was the first thing I thought about," said Terry McShane, who joined the Chicago Fire Department with his younger brothers Scott and Craig in 1980.
Capuano, a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department, was killed early Monday morning after falling two stories down an elevator shaft at a burning South Chicago warehouse. He leaves behind a wife, Julie, and three children — Amanda, 16, Andrew, 13, and Nicholas, 12.
Funeral services for Capuano, a 43-year-old resident of Mount Greenwood, begin today at St. Rita High School in Ashburn. Visitation will be held from 3-9 p.m. in the school's chapel at 7720 S. Western Ave.
Capuano's funeral will begin at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Rita. Capuano will be buried at Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery & Mausoleum in Alsip.
As for Craig McShane, the rookie firefighter was on the job only 1½ years when he was called to the fire on the 25th floor of the building at 8 S. Michigan Ave. He along with veteran firefighter Joseph Hitz and four others entered the high-rise and began searching for the source of the blaze, his brother said.
Hitz, an Ashburn resident, fell 16 floors down the open elevator shaft while hunting for the fire, according to details provided by the Illinois Fire Service Institute.
The five remaining firefighters, including McShane, successfully escaped the heat and smoke by crawling into an open office and exiting onto the fire escape. They soon realized Hitz was missing, and McShane was the only firefighter who still had oxygen in his tank, according to the Institute's account.
McShane went back into the smoke-filled hallway to look for Hitz, but he fell down the open elevator shaft, the Institute said.
Terry McShane said the fire began in a garbage pile that a cleaning crew had placed within the adjacent elevator that had stopped 10 floors below.
In a sad twist, Terry McShane and his brother Scott were initially excited for their baby brother when they first learned he was called to such a high-profile fire.
"I remember calling my mom and dad saying, 'Hey, Craig is going to be on TV.' And then I found out my brother was dead," Terry McShane said.
Those feelings of grief returned on Monday for Terry McShane, who added that his thoughts and prayers are with the Capuano family.
"I can relate to what Mrs. Capuano is going through," he said.
After their brother died, Terry and Scott McShane remained with the Fire Department.
Terry McShane was injured on the job in 2001 — hurting his back just blocks from where Capuano died. Doctors wouldn't allow him to return to work. Scott McShane, a Morgan Park resident, retired from the Fire Department about three years ago, his brother said.
Craig McShane's death "took a toll on my parents and all of us. But Scott and I managed to stay on the Fire Department. To me, it was the greatest job in the world," Terry McShane said.
He's troubled by reports of the building owner where Capuano was killed having engaged in unauthorized construction, including removing an elevator without a permit. State's Attorney Anita Alvarez will soon decide if criminal action will be taken.
"From the time when my brother left, I always felt like when it is your time, it is your time. But this sounds very preventable to me," Terry McShane said.
He said his family filed a lawsuit in the wake of Craig McShane's fatal fall, stating that a building owner has a responsibility to maintain their property in the event of a fire or other such emergency. It took 14 years to settle the case, but a judge eventually agreed, Terry McShane said.
He believes that same standard should apply to Anilroshi LLC, the owner of the warehouse in the 9200 block of South Baltimore Avenue where Capuano died.
"As firemen, we don't assume there are large holes in the floor," Terry McShane said. "I'm sure [the firefighters battling Monday's blaze] didn't even know there was an elevator in the building."
"That building owner is responsible," he said.
Efforts by DNAinfo Chicago to reach Jatin Patel, principal of Anilroshi LLC, have been unsuccessful.
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