Photo by Dermot Connolly
Last week's fire at the Airway mobile home park in Oak Lawn left two men dead.
The investigation continues into the deaths of two men taken out of a fire early last Thursday morning in the Airway mobile home park at 9001 S. Cicero Ave. in Oak Lawn, which have been ruled homicides by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
Oak Lawn police and fire officials said at a press conference last Thursday that they had been alerted by a Hometown police officer to a fire in a mobile home at that location at 12:43 a.m. Firefighters determined that the fire started in unit 10D, and spread to 10E. Both were heavily damaged. Both fatalities were found in the same residence, according to Fire Chief George Sheets, and another man in the residence next-door suffered smoke inhalation.
The officials said the Hometown police officer entered the first residence and found one of the men and brought him out, but he was deceased. As of Tuesday, his name had not been released, awaiting notification of his family. But, according to the medical examiner’s office, an autopsy determined the cause of death to be injuries caused by the fire, with “sharp force injuries.”
The second person taken out of Unit 10D was identified as Randy Chabala, 59, of Midlothian. He had been taken out of the residence in full cardiac arrest. After being stabilized at Advocate Christ Medical Center, he was flown to Loyola University Medical Center, where he died at 2 p.m. the same day. His death also was ruled a homicide, caused by injuries from the fire as well as “sharp force injuries,” indicating that both men were stabbed.
“We are all distraught that there have been two fatal fires in that community within 30 days,” said Mayor Sandra Bury at the press conference.
She was referring to the May 9 fire at another home in the park, which killed a 64-year-old woman who lived there. That fire is believed to have been caused by smoking, said Sheets.
“We have very few fatal fires in Oak Lawn,” said Sheets, calling it a coincidence that two had occurred.
He said having working smoke alarms is very important for safety, and noted that they are available free at Village Hall for Airway residents.
But the fact that the latest deaths were ruled homicides “is a major concern,” said Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) at the Village Board meeting on Tuesday night. He held up a sheaf of papers, saying it represented the number of calls for service that the village’s emergency services have received from Airway over the past year. He estimated that there have been 100 calls over the past 12 months, and Sheets said there have been something like 253 over the past three years.
“That is an usually large number,” the trustee said.
“Safety is a high concern with all of us,” said Olejniczak. “Myself, the mayor, and village staff are trying to set up a meeting with the owners of Airway to discuss our concerns. It is a shame it has come to this.”
The trustee said he expects the safety concerns in the 61-year-old Airway community, which includes several hundred residences, are expected to be a major topic of discussion at a District 2 safety meeting he will be holding at noon Saturday, in the conference room at Oak Lawn Village Hall, 9446 S. Raymond Ave.