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2 Investigators: Nursing Home Patient Catches Fire, Left To Smolder Outside

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(CBS) — A man smoking a cigarette catches on fire. What happens next has outraged his family.

CBS 2’s Dave Savini has video of the incident.

Lisa Couch says her brother, Michael Lewis, was nearing the end of his stay at Lake Shore HealthCare and Rehabilitation Centre when tragedy struck.

“He burned to death,” she says.  “He sustained burns like from mid-thigh up to the eyebrows.”

Security camera footage shows Lewis on the patio, a designated smoking area, when the lighter in his pocket suddenly catches his shirt on fire. Residents try, but fail, to put out the flames. Lewis then frantically pushes himself back inside to get help.

“The horror, to think my brother is on fire and no one is there?” Couch says.

The video shows frantic workers inside the building. Staff members spray Lewis with a fire extinguisher; then they roll him back outside, where his smoldering body covered in foam sits motionless.

“Doesn’t look like they were trying to take care of Michael,” his sister says.

State nursing home regulators say spraying Lewis directly with the extinguisher was against the rules.

Dr. Stanley Zydlo, an emergency response expert, watched the video and says there were numerous additional problems.

“There didn’t seem to be anybody in control as to who was to do what,” Zydlo says.

He also said a blanket should have been used to cover Lewis immediately. Someone should have been checking the victim’s airway, too, he says.

More than five minutes after the fire, a man in blue scrubs brings oxygen.

“We don’t see anybody evaluating him or doing CPR for him,” Zydlo notes.

In fact, there’s no evidence on the security camera video of anyone performing life-saving CPR on Lewis until after Chicago EMS crews arrive on the scene. By then, crucial minutes had already passed.

Rescue crews find Lewis lifeless in cardiac arrest. Ten minutes after the fire started, CPR was finally administered.

Zydlo says someone should have put damp sheets on Lewis.

“The burn process is progressive unless you cool it down,” says Zydlo. “It will continue.”

Facility representatives refused to talk on-camera about Michael Lewis’s death. They sent a statement saying they cannot comment due to privacy laws.

The home was cited for failing to train staff in emergency procedures.

“There was no one there to help him,” Couch says.

She says her brother was getting ready to leave the facility and return home. She has filed a lawsuit against Lakeshore HealthCare and Rehabilitation Centre.

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