First they marched single file.
Then they came in twos, holding their white-gloved hands aloft in salute as they passed their fallen comrade’s casket, draped in the Chicago flag.
And for a while Sunday evening, the soft footsteps of a parade of Chicago firefighters became the only sound in the sanctuary of St. Rita of Cascia Chapel. That’s where members of the Chicago Fire Department and others paid their respects to diver Juan Bucio.
Gov. Bruce Rauner was among those who attended Bucio’s visitation. Bucio, 46, died during a rescue attempt in the South Branch of the Chicago River last week. His funeral is set to begin at noon Monday, also at St. Rita. A burial ceremony will follow at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in southwest suburban Stickney.
Several members of the Chicago Police Department also visited the hushed chapel sanctuary, where flags and flowers surrounded Bucio’s body.
Bucio, a firefighter who specialized in diving, joined the Chicago Fire Department in 2003 and had been a member of the dive team since 2007. He is survived by his two sons, ages 7 and 9, and nine siblings. One of his brothers is a fellow CFD firefighter, and one of his sisters is a Chicago Police officer.
It’s still not clear exactly what went wrong during the rescue that began May 28 when Alberto Lopez, the man Bucio would begin searching for, fell into the south branch of the river near the 2600 block of South Ashland.
Lopez and his friends had been out for a pleasure cruise on a 16-foot fishing boat with an outboard engine when a larger boat passed and created a wake that rocked the smaller vessel. Lopez couldn’t swim and wasn’t wearing a life jacket. He fell from his seat near the edge of the boat into the river, and his friends called 911.
Bucio and his dive partner descended into the river from a helicopter. But a moment of confusion would be caught on video just as Bucio went under the water. Several minutes after his partner was pulled out, divers jumped in to find Bucio. He was pulled out minutes later and rushed to Stroger hospital.
Lopez’s friends wouldn’t find his body until Friday, after they mounted their own search.
Bucio is the 13th member of the Chicago Fire Department to have died in the line of duty since 2000, according to the Illinois Fire Service Institute.