Des Plaines house fire kills woman as father tries to save her

October 8, 2012 (DES PLAINES, Ill.)

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office says Sandra Lupy, 48, died of thermal injuries in the house fire as a result of careless use of smoking materials and ruled the death accidental.

The fire broke out shortly after 12 a.m. Monday. Firefighters later found the woman's body inside her bedroom on the basement level of the single-family home in the 1000-block of Irwin.

"I was sitting at the kitchen table, and I heard some strange noises. And I went down to her basement room and opened the door, and a cloud of black smoke just rolled out," said the woman's father, Ronald Kauke.

Kauke could not save his daughter from the fire that raged inside her bedroom. Lupy was known to smoke in bed, which is where officials said the fire started. Kauke said Lupy had been warned about that repeatedly.

"In fact, one of the firemen responded to a little fire they had some time before and told her, 'You keep smoking in bed, we'll be carrying you out.' So, I guess that's what happened," the father said.

Kauke says his daughter was on medical disability and had some mental issues. She and her husband lived on the home's lower level. Family members say the woman's husband left her Sunday and filed for divorce.

"She was very dejected, very unhappy. She cried most of the day yesterday," Kauke said.

Kauke said he did not believe Lupy would hurt herself.

A Des Plaines police officer who got to the scene first tried to kick in the door to help occupants out, but he was also unsuccessful.

"The first arriving police officer went in the building, tried to get the victims out. He also sustained some smoke inhalation. However he is fine, but he was assessed at the scene and did not need to be transported," said Chief Alan Wax of the Des Plaines Fire Department.

No one else was injured, but a dog inside the home did not survive. Firefighters say they put out the fire in about 20 minutes.

On Monday, Kauke was in shock, and so were neighbors.

"I feel very bad because the people over here [are] really nice, really quiet, never have problems," said neighbor Sergio Velasco.

"It's scary. Like I said, it's so close to home here. Really, reality sets in," said Mary Lou Hess, who also lives in the area.

The burned, split-level home was boarded up Monday.

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