Thirteen feet and 10 inches off the ground. It may not sound very high, but that height is all it took for a firefighter responding to an emergency to lose his life. On Monday, December 14, Chicago firefighter Daniel Capuano, 42, stepped into an unprotected elevator shaft in a two-story brick warehouse and fell 13 feet and 10 inches to his death.

 According to the fire department’s report following the incident, Lt. Clark related to the regional fire marshal that, “while searching for the seat of the fire he (Clark) ascended to the second floor and encountered zero visibility with no heat.” Upon returning to the first floor, it says, he immediately, “looked into the open shaft and observed a firefighter (Capuano) laying at the bottom of the basement.”

After Capuano was rushed to the hospital, his fellow firefighters eventually found flames inside wall insulation on the second floor.

The Chicago Tribune reported that fire department spokesman Larry Langford said the firefighter’s death was, “maddening,” and that it, “didn’t have to happen this way.” According to the report, the open elevator shaft was not marked in any way, so the team of firefighters searching for the source of the blaze had no way of knowing it was there.

Not only that, but a report later announced that when the city’s building department inspected the Baltimore Avenue warehouse after the fire, inspectors discovered that, “unauthorized work was being performed at the site.” Owners of the building had not authorized the demolition of an elevator—had they done that, the city would have gone through the process of inspecting the elevator to make sure it was done safely.

Capuano’s wife—and the mother of his three children—filed a wrongful death suit against the owner of the building. The suit alleges that the owner was negligent for allowing the elevator holes to remain open and unmarked and doing major work without a permit, which is in violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.

Shortly after the fatal incident the city filed an emergency motion to have the warehouse demolished. Local media outlets reported in January that the building owner agreed to pay for the demolition.

Unfortunately, Capuano’s family is not the first to lose a loved one to this type of accident. Let tragic incidents like this one be a reminder to everyone of the safety risks associated with unguarded openings in elevated floors. And remember that flames and smoke are not the only dangers that emergency personnel encounter when they’re facing a fire.