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Chicago Tribune Reporter

For two days, fire officials apparently missed the body of a man who had been living inside an East Garfield Park home where a fire broke out Monday morning, Larry Langford, spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department, said Wednesday.

Crosby "Croz" Lipscomb, a retired janitor for the Chicago Public Schools, was one of three men that family said lived in the basement apartment of a two-flat home at 3534 W. Polk St. He apparently died after an accidental cooking fire broke out in the basement about 6:25 a.m. Monday, Langford said.

Family members said they found Lipscomb's body on Wednesday afternoon after kicking in the door to the home, which had been boarded up after the fire.

"The Fire Department didn't do their job," said Haywood Lipscomb, 42, a nephew of the victim who said he was among Wednesday's private search party. He said he had implored fire officials on Monday to keep looking for Lipscomb when his uncle did not emerge from the smoke.

"The whole family asked the Fire Department" to continue the search, Haywood Lipscomb said.

Fire officials said an investigation into the incident continues. The Chicago Police Department got involved in the case Wednesday, Langford said.

"It appears we missed a recovery," Langford said. "It's a terrible thing for a family member to find someone after a fire."

As of Wednesday, officials had not yet been able to talk to the responding firefighters, he said.

On Monday, when firefighters arrived, Lipscomb had likely already died, based on the strength of the blaze and the victim's location, Langford said. The Cook County medical examiner's office was expected to perform an autopsy, he said.

Haywood Lipscomb said he found his uncle on the floor near his bed with his arm reaching up, a picture frame covering his face.

The second-youngest of nine brothers and two sisters, Lipscomb was born in Forest City, Ark., said Albert Lipscomb, 63, an older brother.

Family members described Lipscomb as a gentle soul who rode his bike everywhere, loved to fish in the lagoon at Garfield Park and was especially close with family members. He loved to spend sunny afternoons on his porch, chatting with neighbors.

Relatives said he was 58 years old, although the Cook County medical examiner's office listed Lipscomb's age Wednesday as 51.

"He was lively, charismatic," said niece Tamarie Lipscomb, 34.

Her uncle liked to walk with a big walking stick, a habit that earned him the nickname "Moses," she said.

On Wednesday afternoon, a crowd of relatives and neighbors watched as police and fire officials converged on the scene. The greystone's windows were boarded up, and burned debris, including a full-size mattress, littered the backyard.

"It's just negligence," said Roy Williams, a neighbor. "It's the Fire Department's job" to find victims.

Insurance company investigators were also in the home, Langford said. "We know they moved stuff around," he said.

Ervin Smith, a 50-year-old neighbor, watched Wednesday as Lipscomb was carried out in a black body bag.

"He was a beautiful guy," Smith said and smiled. "Just wonderful."

Tribune reporter Tribune reporter Andrew L. Wang contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 Chicago Tribune Company
Chicago Tribune
April 9, 2009 Thursday
Chicagoland Final Edition

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that is sad..it wasnt like he was hiding in aa closet or anything..y didnt anyone look..as long as nothing was falling in... i mean the family managed to go in without the house fallin in
I don't understand how a department could let this happen. Even if they weren't able to do search and rescue right away, if someone is on scene telling you someone is in the house, you need to do a good enough search to find them!!!
Sad Very Sad
What a tragedy. I hope it was an honset (stupid) mistake and not from jaded or complacent FFs. TCSS
This is the reasons why the Coroners locked down entire towns (or what's left of them) after our recent Black Saturday fires.

With whole towns obliterated off the map, they were concerned about families finding remains before Police and others had. They had them locked down for about 3 weeks from memory....
OMG, This is horrible. Thoughts and prayers for the family and people that knew him. TCSS
The guys who "boarded up" a room they hadn't been in are the ones I'm praying for.
speechless,don't know how this can happen
Because of the extent of the fires in those towns, there were three searches. The initial search immediately after the fires, a more thorough search by police and Army, and then a third search later, just looking for anything. I was involved in the third search in Marysville.

In this case? It's hard to understand how it occured, but that it did will stay in my mind whenever I'm involved in an after fire search. The investigation will get some answers.
Rob,I find it hard to say much more than "how the hell could this happen"? But read what I said above, too.

If, as a family member apparently stated, the corpse was found on the floor next to a bed, then about the only way it could have been missed is by that room not being searched. Can anyone think of an acceptable reason for failing to search all rooms in a fire effected dwelling? I can't. But, I say again, the investigation should bring some answers. It doesn't matter to me if I never see those answers I mentioned. By having this matter posted here we, us firefighters, are being shown that this sort of thing has happened at least once. We should never forget it.

Am I bashing the firefighters concerned? I don't hink so, I just said that I can't understand how this could happen. Am I saying anything like the firefighters concerned should be sacked? No I'm not. Giving blanket support would also not do us, as firefighters, any good either. Who knows who reads posts here? What would civilians think of us for openly supporting what happened? We need to be seen to be concerned, to be seen to be willing to remember this, to make sure that it doesn't happen again.
I agree with Rob. No matter how bad this looks - and the media has a tendency to make things look bad as that is what sells papers - there are issues and points that we are not yet privvy to. Remember - no matter how flat you smash it, there are two sides to every pancake. Granted, this does not look good, but I am willing to give my Brothers and Sisters the benefit of the doubt first before I will the press. Negative results from any investigation should be used to make us all better, not to point the finger. I know I have certainly made mistakes in my 19 years in the fire service, and I would hope that my "family" would stand by me and have some respect for me if those mistakes were broadcast to the world. There are issues that I have personally dealt with where I felt bad at letting my brothers/sisters or the public down and the responsibility rested directly on me. I would hate to think that (if I had this type of public scrutiny,) when I was at my lowest point, I would have my brothers/sisters joining in the media frenzy of public tarring and feathering. I'm willing to take my criticism, as I'm an officer and I'm held responsible. But... how much is enough? Have you ever attended those CISDs where you are wondering why some other unit (that you were only in radio contact with - you weren't there and could not see what the sitaution was) was a waste of DNA on the call? Once you hear what that unit was dealing with things start to make sense. Also, please remember it's a fire service creed - or at least it used to be - that we watch out for one another. That includes holding judgement in reserve - at the very least until there is a completed investigation. What's the saying, "But for the grace of God go I?" Be safe out there! Be kind, also!
Did I speculate? I made some comments immediately after referring to heresay. I'll stick with not understanding, but remembering in my own work that it has happened somewhere. It is probable that when any investigation is finished that someone will post either excerpts from the report, or a link to the report - I may read it then, but as I said, for me personally the most important thing is that I know that this has happened. I'll remember this any time I have to do a second search. That is the message I was trying to get across with my post.

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