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Man restrained to bed dies in hospital fire

January 3, 1997

CHICAGO (AP) _ A hospital patient who may have been trying to burn off his leg restraints died Thursday in a fire that injured more than a dozen others, four critically, authorities said.

The patient, Larry Cook, 50, had been disruptive overnight and placed in the restraints, Roseland Community Hospital officials said. A preliminary fire investigation found he may have started the blaze by trying to burn the restraints with either matches or a cigarette lighter.

``The mattress was totally consumed by the fire,″ said Fire Chief Stanley Span. ``The TV sets (in the dead man’s room) had melted. There was considerable heat. Everything was blackened by smoke.″

The fire was extinguished quickly, but not before heavy smoke penetrated parts of the hospital. The dead man’s roommate was among more than a dozen patients taken to other hospitals for fire-related injuries. Four were in critical condition.

Hospital spokeswoman Toni Lieteau said Cook was restrained because he was running up and down the hall and was abusive to nurses and other patients.

Cook’s sister, Cynthia, said he had been taken to the hospital Wednesday after he complained of stomach pains. She blamed the hospital for his death.

``If you got to restrain him and a fire breaks out and he’s in restraints, he’s the first thing that’s got to come out of that room,″ she told WLS-TV.

Lieteau said the hospital followed appropriate procedure.

Dr. Larry Mitchell, head of the hospital’s emergency department, said a doctor’s consent is necessary for restraints, which are used for patients ``who are violent, psychotic or could harm themselves or others.″ He also noted that patients are monitored every half-hour.

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