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SARA OLKEN
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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Sad this happened I am sure these firefighters have been running this thru their minds time and time again my condolesces to the family and also to the FF who are going thru this tragedy.
This is a horrible tragedy for the family to have to see this and have it as the last memory of their family member. There are so many things that could be said about why this happened, but the easiest way to say it is that the ball was dropped on many different levels. The investigator, the fire crews, and the command staff. If the victim was truly found where he was, many people failed the family. We all as members of the fire service community need to learn fom this and be sure that this does not happen in our community. If there was someone unaccounted for, the scene should not be turned over until that person is found. End of story.
I'm going to echo Rob's statement. Yes it's a tragedy but let's not jump on the medias wagon and start criticizing/degrading our fellow brothers and sisters! The Chicago Fire Dept is a great department that has been around a day or two and I can't remember the last time something negative came out about them. Something went wrong on this incident. What it was will soon be uncovered and announced. Until then, we should all be treating this for what it is. A great time to reflect on the way we do things in our little corner of the world. Could this happen to us? Are there gaps in our procedures that would possibly no matter how remote allow something similiar to this to occur? If you can't HONESTLY say no then it is time to re-evaluate your procedures and training.
That is the next thing we all should be doing, sitting our people down and do some refresher training on SAR, communication, strategies and tactics.

This is a unfortunate event for Chicago FD, but it is a golden opportunity for the rest of us to train, review and discuss the way WE do things to ensure this doesn't happen to us.
Ah yes, Another thread in which people jump up and down and make comments on how bad the dept did. Funny part is...the ones who jump have never been there. From the reports in the media the room he was found in was the fire room.....ever seen a badly burnt corpse? Extremely easy to over look. I do not blame nor will i say anything to discredit the CFD, as i know it could happen again today!
"Funny part is...the ones who jump have never been there." And you know that for a fact do you Dave? Or are you jumping up and down in your own manner?

Do I happily accept what the media says? No, I never have and never will. I would prefer to accept what an independant investigation says - independant, not the FD concerned. But really, I don't care if I see a report or not, as I said earlier the most important thing for me is to be aware that this has happened. To remember this tragedy. To do my best to ensure that it never happens at any fire I attend.

"it could happen again today"? Maybe, but it shouldn't. That is the way we should think.

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