CHICAGO | A South Holland man faces six months in the Cook County Jail and a fine of $5,229 for neglecting a South Shore building he owned where a roof collapsed during a fire that killed two Chicago firefighters.
Chuck Dai, 65, owner of a building at 1738-44 E. 75th St. that caught fire Dec. 22, 2010, pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony charge of contempt of court, according to a news release from the Cook County state's attorney's office.
Two firefighters, including Corey Ankum, a one-time Lynwood resident and 1994 graduate of T.F. South High School in Lansing, died while trying to vent the building. They were on the roof when it collapsed. Fourteen other firefighters also were injured, the release states.
Dai faced criminal charges when it was learned he had previously been cited by the city Building Department. He had been ordered to seal off the building and make repairs to the roof, but did not comply with that court order.
Judge James Obbish imposed the sentence during a hearing at the Criminal Courts Building. Criminal contempt charges against Dai have been pending since 2012.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said, in a prepared statement, that Dai received the criminal charge because of the severity of the incident, unlike typical building code violations where an administrative sanction would have been issued.
“Building owners have a legal and a civic responsibility to maintain their properties in our neighborhoods in a safe and responsible manner,” Alvarez said. “This case represents our commitment to holding building owners accountable.”
The building Dai owned was a former commercial laundry. But it was vacant when building inspectors cited the property with 14 violations. It was specifically noted that the roof and roof trusses were rotted, had holes and were leaking.
The state’s attorney’s office said that Dai did not show up for various scheduled court hearings, and eventually was fined $14,000 for ignoring the violations.
In October 2009, Dai reached an agreement in court to make all required repairs, so as to reduce the fines. But state’s attorney officials say that Dai never complied with the agreement.
“Urban blight is a very challenging community issue and it is also a very serious public safety issue,” Alvarez said in her statement. “We will do all that is possible to protect our 'first responders' from the type of negligence that led to this terrible tragedy for the families of these public servants and the entire Chicago Fire Department.”