Elevator Of Death: Woman Rode Into High-Rise Fire

A high-rise fire killed a woman early Sunday who reportedly moved to Chicago less than a year ago.

A high-rise fire killed a woman early Sunday who reportedly moved to Chicago less than a year ago.

Shantel McCoy, 32, who lived on the 12th floor of the building at 3130 N. Lake Shore Drive, apparently got on the elevator with a bag of takeout food to go home, not knowing a fire was raging above her.

The fire broke out on the 12th floor of a building at around 2 a.m., said Chicago Fire Department Chief Joe Roccasalva. The fire also injured nine other people, including two firefighters.

"When the first companies arrived on the scene, they had fire blowing out of the 12th floor window," Roccasalva said.

Shantel McCoy, 32, died when she unwittingly rode an elevator to a high-rise floor that was on fire in Chicago early Sunday.The fire started in an occupied apartment on the 12th floor, Roccasalva said. A man and woman who live there were able to make it out with their dog, but they left their front door open, Roccasalva said. Had they closed it, according to the chief, McCoy might have survived.

"If the fire is in your apartment, we tell people to get out and close the door. Each unit is a compartment to itself," he said. "It has rated fire walls that abut each other, and into the hallway, and a rated fire door. Usually, it's a 90 minute door. So that would have held back the heat and a lot of the smoke until we got up there."

"The door to the apartment where the fire started was not closed, and the super-heated toxic gasses all got into the hallway there," Roccasalva said. "The heat in there is probably 1,500 to 2,000 degrees at the ceiling. And if she was standing in the elevator, she probably got it full, right on."

The residential high-rise building was built before 1975. It does not have a connected system of fire alarms and no sprinklers except in the garage, the fire captain said. That means when one smoke alarm goes off, others in the building will not necessarily do so.

The building was not yet required to update its fire alarm system, Roccasalva said. An ordinance was passed that required older high-rises to be retrofitted with a modern, connected system by this month. However, a Building Department spokesperson told the Tribune that the City Council recently put off that deadline until 2015.

People who live above and below the 12th floor confirmed that they did not hear fire alarms going off.

McCoy's mother told the Tribune she moved to Chicago last March after being laid off from a job in Philadelphia.

Nine other people were hurt, including two firefighters. One of the victims was critically injured. Of the firefighters, one had minor injuries to his arm. The other firefighter was in serious condition with exhaustion.

Roccasalva said that because the elevators would not all return to the lobby when crews arrived, firefighters had to lug their equipment up 12 flights of stairs to attack the fire.