Maine Twp. deaths appear to be carbon monoxide: sheriff
Carbon monoxide apparently killed a father and son in Maine Township this week and critically injured the wife, the Cook County Sheriff's Police said Friday afternoon.
The sheriff's department released a statement saying Hong Kyu Kim, 53, and John Tae Kim, 83, appear to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning and that their deaths appear to be accidental.
However, police are still investigating the source of the carbon monoxide and are attempting to determine when the men died, sheriff's spokeswoman Sophia Ansari said later.
The men were pronounced dead Thursday in their home on the 9400 block of Harrison Street in unincorporated Maine Township, near Des Plaines. A woman, identified as the wife of John Tae Kim and the mother of Hong Kyu Kim, was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where she remains in critical condition.
They have not released her name.
The Kim family ran Signature A-1 Cleaners at 359 W. Irving Park Road in Wood Dale. Other shop owners in the center said the cleaners was unexpectedly closed for several days leading up to Thursday, which could have some bearing on when the deaths occurred.
Eventually, someone called the Wood Dale police, who checked the store and called the Kims' pastor at Chicago Covenant Presbyterian Church in Glenview.
On Thursday afternoon, members of the congregation went to the Kims' house, finding it surrounded by police tape.
On Friday, members of the church were keeping the dry cleaners open in the wake of the tragedy.
Paul Kwak, a church elder, said John Tae Kim leaned on him for business advice in recent weeks because Kwak himself runs a dry cleaners in Arlington Heights.
Kim called him about two weeks ago "because he was struggling" to keep the business afloat, Kwak said.
"They couldn't run the business. They couldn't survive it," Kwak said.
John Tae Kim, a retired English teacher, operated the dry cleaners from the Wood Dale strip mall for nine years. Customers said he came to work every day, often working more than 12 hours a day, and was determined to keep it up even though he suffered a stroke several years ago.
"He was a character," said George Anderson, a Wood Dale resident and longtime customer who came to pick up clothes Friday afternoon. "I always said, 'John Kim' and he would always call my name back to me and we always laughed about whatever was going on. He was just one of those characters."
Kim frequently read his Korean newspaper or the Bible in the shop and was particularly proud of the crown of thorns plant growing in the store, Anderson said.
Members of the Kims' church plan to keep the doors open at the dry cleaners for about another week to allow customers to pick up their items. Those who don't will get phone calls to come in, Kwak said.
Meanwhile, police said they were called to the Kims' house in Maine Township Thursday by a phone call from a family member but have not identified who that is.
The situation quickly became a hazardous materials case, as the first four sheriff's deputies in the house developed difficulty breathing and were all briefly hospitalized, Ansari said.
On Friday, North Maine Fire Chief Rick Dobrowski said the deputies, who got there first, went into the house and opened up windows and doors. Seven firefighters went inside shortly afterward and together they discovered the woman, in critical condition but breathing.
They got her out, but soon after all four deputies started having trouble breathing. The fire department ordered everybody out of the house, and the hazardous materials team was called.
Investigators did not go back inside until shortly before 7 p.m., when hazardous materials crews determined the situation was no longer dangerous.
The two-story townhouse in Maine Township is part of a five-unit building near Harrison Street and Dee Road, across from Apollo Elementary School.
All of the neighboring units were safely evacuated on Thursday, and residents were allowed to return to their homes before 8 p.m., authorities said.
The Cook County medical examiner's office conducted autopsies on the two men Friday.
• Daily Herald staff writers Christopher Placek, Lee Filas, Jake Griffin, Sara Hooker and Doug T. Graham contributed to this report.