LODD: Chicago firefighter-EMT dies while searching for boater

Juan J. Bucio, 46, became separated from his partner while trying to rescue someone from the Chicago River

By Madeline Buckley and Peter Nickeas
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — A Chicago Fire Department diver died and two other divers were injured during a rescue attempt on the Chicago River Monday evening, officials said.

Juan J. Bucio, 46, was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital at 10:02 p.m. He became separated from his partner while trying to rescue someone from the Chicago River near where it crosses Ashland Avenue on Monday night.

Two other divers were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in good condition, according to the Fire Department. They have been released.

The fire department received a call around 7:50 p.m. after boaters saw a person jump into the water, according to José A. Santiago, the Fire Commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department.

During the search, Bucio became separated from his partner, Santiago said, and the team sent out a Mayday call.

“His partner turned around and he was missing,” he said. “It was that quick.”

Bucio, of the 6300 block of West 63rd Street, went missing about 8:25 p.m. and Chicago Police Department Marine Unit divers pulled him from the water about 20 minutes later. The Chicago Police Department is still searching the water for the person that went into the water.

"We have a diver down, start making phone calls, let's get people in, 10-4?" a Marine Unit supervisor asked over his radio.

“You sounded muffled,” an officer answered. “I can't copy.”

“We have a possible diver down. Start calling people. Let's get some people in.”

It’s not clear what time divers entered the water or how long they were in before the mayday. Fire department officials said the incident was still under investigation.

The call of a person in the water was near Canalport Riverwalk Park in an industrial area near the Bridgeport neighborhood on the South Side.

Crews could be seen pulling a person from a boat on a gurney as an ambulance waited on the shore nearby around 8:50 p.m.

“We got the diver out, he’s going to Stroger, critical,” a battalion chief said into his radio.

About a dozen police and fire vehicles were stationed at Stroger Hospital late Monday, and officials blocked off Ogden Avenue in front of the hospital for at least an hour.

A group of firefighters stood outside the emergency room while Chicago police officers lined the entrance to the hospital parking lot.

Firefighters and police officers gathered outside the Cook County medical examiner’s office late Monday and early Tuesday morning.

Two firetrucks parked facing each other on Leavitt Avenue and stretched their ladders up and over Harrison Street early Tuesday morning.

Firefighters from each rig used locking rings to secure and hang a flag over Harrison Street, as is customary for line of duty deaths.

Firetrucks and engines lined Harrison Street on the way to the morgue. Just after 1 a.m., two police SUVs led a procession from the hospital with Ambulance 65 carrying Bucio’s body.

As the ambulance and trailing SUVs turned left into the medical examiner’s office, the cars following in procession turned right.

Firefighters from Truck 7 folded the flag behind their rig just before 1:30 a.m. as fire crews and police officers that had lined the route returned to their firehouses and patrol districts.

Bucio is the 13th Chicago firefighter to die in the line of duty since 2000, according to data from the Illinois Fire Service Institute, and the first line of duty death since Daniel Capuano fell through an open elevator shaft at a vacant warehouse in December of 2015.

He joined the department in 2003, and became of a member of the dive team in 2007.

Bucio is survived by nine siblings, including a sister who is a member of the Chicago Police Department and a brother who is a member of the Chicago Fire Department.

He has two sons, 9 and 7.

Copyright 2018 Chicago Tribune

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