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James Sneider Apartments senior home owner fined $1,500 after three women died in heat wave

$1,500 fine for senior home where three women died in heat wave
$1,500 fine for senior home where three women died in heat wave 00:27

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The owner of a senior apartment building in Rogers Park was fined only $1,500 after three women died in their apartments during a heat wave in May.

There was no air conditioning running at the James Sneider Apartments when the women died on May 14, and some tenants said temperatures inside were more than 100°.

Autopsies determined the three women who died — Janice Reed, 68, Gwendolyn Osborne, 72, and Delores McNeely, 76 — died from "environmental heat exposure due to hot residential building during heat-related weather event," according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. Heart problems and other health factors also contributed to their deaths.

A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Buildings confirmed the building owner was fined $1,500 for building code violations found during an inspection of the building after the women died.

The violations found during an inspection 10 days after the women's deaths included an air conditioning "chiller" on the roof that "does not appear suitable for exterior use."

A city spokesman said neither the Buildings Department nor the Law Department had access to the women's autopsy results when the case against the building owner was resolved and the $1,500 fine was issued through a settlement agreement in August. All of the violations found in May have been corrected, and the building owner has paid the fine.

Buildings Department spokesman Mike Puccinelli said any investigation of the women's deaths would be handled by the Chicago Police Department, and reviewed by Cook County prosecutors.

The women's deaths prompted the Chicago City Council to pass new cooling requirements for senior buildings and other large high rises.

That ordinance requires any housing complex for seniors to provide cooling systems in all common areas, capable of keeping the inside temperature at no more than 75° and the inside humidity at no more than 50% whenever the outdoor temperature is 92° and the "wet bulb temperature," a measurement of heat and humidity separate from the more common "heat index," reaches at least 75°.

In addition, any residential buildings with at least 100 dwelling units are required to provide a permanent cooling system capable of maintaining an indoor temperature of 75° and an indoor humidity of no more than 50% in one common area whenever the outdoor temperature is 92° and the "wet bulb temperature" is at least 75°.

In both cases, those buildings were required to have to have temporary cooling systems in place by July 31, and permanent systems must be installed by May 1, 2024.

The ordinance also would require permanent air conditioning in all newly constructed daycare centers, pre-K through 12th grade schools, and residential building projects.

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