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Long-time fireman dies of suspected West Nile

(MCT) — A Chicago Fire Department lieutenant died tonight and his family suspects West Nile Disease, according to officials.

Lt. Thomas Flahive died about 6:30 p.m. at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, said Fire Department Media Affairs Director Larry Langford. His family suspects his death was caused by West Nile Disease.

"That's what it looks like,'' Langford said.

Flahive, who was 58 and a member of the Fire Department since 1989, started feeling flu-like symptoms 10 days or so ago while at the firehouse.

He was vacationing in Wisconsin about two weeks ago when a mosquito bit him in the neck, said Langford.

"He was at the firehouse feeling symptoms and he decided to go home and check into the hospital,'' Langford said.

The family is donating portions of his body in hopes that more can be learned about this disease and its effects, said Langford.

Chicago Fire Department Chaplain Father Thomas Mulcrone says this donation is in the spirit of the lieutenant, who continues to give for the benefit of others, even after death.

Flahive was assigned to Engine 108's firehouse at Milwaukee and Laramie on the Far Northwest Side.

Flahive is survived by his wife, Mary Faith, and three adult children, Langford said.

Services are pending.

Tonight the mood at Engine 108 is "pretty somber,'' said Asst. Deputy Fire Commissioner Mark Nielsen, whose office is located at Engine 108.

"I mean, Tom, he was a bubbly guy,'' said Nielsen.

"He was always smiling and joking, '' Nielsen said. "He always had kind words and was a very well-respected firefighter.''

Flahive was assigned to Engine 108 in Oct. 1, 2008 and worked for many years at Tower Ladder 14 on the West Side prior to that.

He liked a particular chair in the communications room, which they knew as "Flahive's chair,'' Nielsen said. "That was his favorite spot in the firehouse.''

Nielsen said he saw Flahive the day before he went into the hospital and said even though his co-workers were informed over the last few days that he wasn't going to make it, it's still shocking.

"We haven't comprehended it yet; it hasn't sunk in,'' said Nielsen. "You might suspect an elderly person that might not be able to handle such a virus, but Tom is a big, strong man.''

"There's an autopsy being performed tonight,'' Nielsen said. "His brain is being donated to science. His family, they really want to get to the bottom of what happened.''

"Tom has given a lot in his life and he continues to give ... that is the nature of Tom,'' Nielsen quoted Flahive's family as saying.

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