Elderly man dies after garage fire in Country Club Hills

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An 86-year-old man died Saturday, three days after he became overwhelmed by smoke and gas during a fire in his garage in south suburban Country Club Hills.

James McKnight, 86, went to investigate smoke coming from his two-and-a-half car detached garage in the 18500 block of Anthony Avenue in Country Club Hills last Wednesday and discovered a fire, authorities said.

McKnight tried to extinguish the blaze himself, and was overcome by smoke and gases, Deputy Fire Chief Robert Kopec said.

“It seems to me he became disoriented and couldn’t find his way out,” Kopec said.

McKnight’s wife called 911 to report the blaze, Kopec said. No one else was hurt.

When crews arrived at 7:34 p.m., the main garage door was still closed and McKnight was inside, Kopec said. The firefighters pulled him from the garage.

The fire was brought under control a few minutes after crews arrived at the scene, Kopec said.

McKnight was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he died at 5 p.m. Saturday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

An autopsy Tuesday found he died of multiple injuries from the fire, and heart disease and lung cancer were listed as contributing factors. His death was ruled an accident.

Kopec said it appears McKnight was attempting to heat a dog kennel when something went “catastrophically wrong,” though the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The blaze does not appear intentional.

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