DOWNTOWN — The man who fell to his death Monday from the roof at the LondonHouse luxury hotel on Wacker Drive was an urban explorer visiting Chicago — and photographing it from above.
The man was identified as Eric Paul Janssen, of Memphis, Tenn., by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. He was pronounced dead at 3:48 p.m.
Janssen had been trespassing at the hotel at 85 E. Wacker Drive to take photos on a ledge when he fell to a sixth-floor roof behind the hotel and died, according to CBS2.
Janssen's Instagram shows he often took photos of city buildings — often from rooftops — and abandoned spaces.
"He was the best man I ever knew. He was a real inspiration to all the people who knew him," said Joshua Brent Wallace, a fellow photographer who messaged Janssen a few minutes before his death. "His passing weighs heavy on my heart as I'm sure it does on everybody that knew him. I never met a person that didn't like Eric. I was supposed to hang out with him this weekend. He was a wonderful person.
"He was sort of a guiding hand to get me better at my skill."
Janssen was described as the vice president of audience for Sandusky Newspaper Group in Tennessee. In a 2015 interview with InstaMeet, Janssen said he'd only "recently caught the urbex bug."
"I'd say what probably makes a good urban explorer is boldness mixed with incessant curiosity," Janssen said. "And I believe it’s important to have a creative eye — seeing an abandoned building as a beautiful canvas instead of neglected blight. I think it’s also important to embrace the mindset that sometimes 'it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.'”
Other photographers left comments on Janssen's final Instagram post to honor their friend.
Lauren McFerrin, also of Memphis, said Janssen was "a friend to everyone [he] knew. You helped me out in countless situations. The photographer community will miss you. Memphis will miss you. I will miss you. The best guy. Love you."
Leah Floyd, another friend, said, "Eric, I have known what a wonderful person you are for many years, but I have enjoyed seeing your talent bloom over the past few years. What an amazing artist and kind hearted soul you were. You will be missed by so many."
Susan Steele, another friend, wrote, "I will miss your wonderful photography and your words. Thank you."
The The man's death appeared to be accidental, Officer Thomas Sweeney, a Chicago Police Department spokesman, said Monday.
“Officials at the hotel are working with the Chicago Police Department and other first responders regarding the death of a man who apparently fell from a 20th-floor parapet wall to a sixth-floor rooftop earlier this afternoon," George Jordan, senior vice president of operations for Oxford Hotels & Resorts, which manages the LondonHouse, said Monday. "We offer our condolences."
A parapet is a narrow wall that outlines the rooftop of a building.
Parts of Wacker Drive were closed near the hotel after the fall.
The LondonHouse opened a new, multitiered rooftop bar in 2016, creating a unique spot atop one of Chicago's distinctive buildings to have a drink and hang out amid Chicago's skyscrapers. It's become a popular spot for photographers.
In 2014, just a few blocks away, a man trying to take photos atop the Intercontinental Hotel's massive stone chimney fell to his death.
People have written memorial posts to Janssen:
I can't wrap my head around it. You were in my living room 3 days ago. Laughing. Planning. Passing time. I'll never forget singing you happy birthday when you were visiting Nashville this summer. We took you up to one of our favorite spots in the city. You are a rooftop angel now. Rest easy my friend. Until next time 🙇🏾♂️✊ #chasingrooftops #Nashville #tennessee #summerinnashville #views #restinpeace
I don't have too many photos of @webraw but to me this is one of the most valuable photos I have in my entire collection. This is a photo of Eric holding my hand after my fall. At this point in time he was mostly a stranger but that would change quickly. Over the next couple weeks and until his last breath our bond grew and he would go on to become someone I will forever consider a close friend and a person I can honestly say I love. He didn't know me, owed me nothing but showed up to visit me everyday, sometimes twice a day. Sometimes he would even fall asleep because he was there so long. In addition to his visits, he would always go out of his way to bring some delicious Memphis flavors because he wanted me to be as comfortable in a foreign place as possible. He even flew to Denver to check up on me and my recovery. Thats the kind of person Eric was. Selfless, generous, kind hearted, and flat out exuded humility and warmth. You were a close friend, inspiration to many, and a wise, insightful person. I'm going to miss you so fucking much and I'm sorry I was unable to repay the favor and comfort you in your time of need. Rest easy knowing you made a monstrous contribution to so many of us in your time here.