CHICAGO, Ill. (WCCO/AP) — A 23-year-old man originally from Minnesota was killed after he fell down the smokestack of a Chicago hotel while trying to take a photo.

Nicholas Weime was with his girlfriend at the top of the Intercontinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue and ended up falling 22 feet.

Rescue crews were called to the hotel shortly after 1 a.m., and were able to communicate with him by cell phone until losing contact about 2 hours later.

A fire department spokeswoman says Weime fell down the 6-foot-wide smokestack when he became wedged between the walls.

Crews went down the chute on ropes to monitor his condition, had to wedge boards in the chute to keep him from falling further, and ended up cutting through the wall beneath him to get him out.

He was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital shortly after 5 a.m.

Wieme took up the hobby of stand-up comedy while in college at Minnesota State University in Moorhead, Minn., his family said in a statement. After graduating in 2011, he followed his dream to Chicago, where he switched from comedy to improv and found even more success.

“Those that watched him perform often attested that Nick had a way of unintentionally ‘stealing the show,’ ” the family said. “Nick’s amazing talents were only topped by fierce love and loyalty to his family and friends. Nick was truly a family man, a phenomenal friend (as literally hundreds would attest to), and would do anything to help anyone.”

Wieme performed on a regular basis at various clubs, including iO Theater, one of Chicago’s top comedy companies. His friends and colleagues gathered there to mourn his loss Thursday afternoon.

Wieme had been with iO for close to two years, said his coach, Matt Higbee. He won a spot on Higbee’s team about eight months ago. Only about 10 percent of the students there make teams, so Wieme’s selection was a testament to his talent, Higbee said.

“Nick was a tenacious artist. He always wanted to affect people with the work that he did in his art. He was not only a skilled improviser but a really great filmmaker and a fabulous storyteller above all. He just had really joyous energy, and approached his work in comedy and as well as life with complete playfulness,” Higbee said.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said the cause of death will not be available until Friday afternoon.

In a statement Thursday, the hotel’s general manager, Raymond Vermolen, said his staff is cooperating fully with authorities’ investigation.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Watch & Listen LIVE