Comic dies after falling into Chicago hotel smokestack while taking photos

A 23-year-old Minnesotan who moved to Chicago to follow his dream of being a stand-up comic died Thursday after falling down the smokestack of the Intercontinental Hotel.

Nicholas Wieme, originally of Pipestone, Minn., fell 22 feet down the smokestack while on the roof with his girlfriend, attempting to take photographs. He later died after being pulled from the shaft by rescue crews.

Wieme performed at iO Theater, formerly known as ImprovOlympic, one of Chicago's top comedy companies. Relatives said in a statement that Wieme was a family man and talented comedian whose talents “were only topped by fierce love and loyalty to his family and friends."

“When it came to people, Nick’s as good as they come,” the statement read.

Wieme’s Facebook page, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, suggests he dined at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse inside the hotel Wednesday. A Chicago Fire Department official told the newspaper Wieme and his girlfriend were looking around and wanted to go upstairs. He managed to open a door to the rood simply by pulling on it, Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.

“The bolt was not in,” he told the newspaper.

Wieme then climbed a ladder to the top of the chimney beside the large observation deck on the Intercontinental’s roof before falling 22 feet into the chimney. He struck an angle that kept him from falling further, authorities said.

Wieme tried to communicate with his girlfriend after he fell, according to initial reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.