First reported 8/24/2010 4:48 p.m.

A 46-year-old man fell to his death Aug. 16 at about 2 a.m. from a rooftop deck at a Forest Park apartment building during a quarrel he was having with men from the bar next door. A woman involved in the dispute claims that the man was pulled over the railing on the deck, causing him to fall to the alley below. Police, though, while still investigating the case, are describing it as an “unfortunate accident,” according to Sgt. Mike Keating.

The incident involving the death of Patrick J. DeCola apparently began when somebody shot off fireworks, believed to have been in a parking lot near Mugsy’s Tavern, 7640 Madison St., police said.

At the time, DeCola was temporarily living at an apartment building at 7638 Madison St., which is adjacent to Mugsy’s, along with Jacqueline Hoving, the mother of his two children.

“We were watching TV, and we heard this loud explosion, to the point where it actually shook our building,” Hoving said. “There was laughing in the beer garden, so Patrick yelled down to them, ‘What the hell are you guys doing? You’re shaking our apartment.'”

DeCola and Hoving went outside on the 2nd-floor rooftop deck, which rests above a garage and stands next to the ground-level beer garden at Mugsy’s. The arguing between the people on the deck and those in the beer garden “escalated,” Keating said.

One man from the beer garden climbed over the back fence at Mugsy’s and up the stairs that led to a catwalk between the bar and the apartment’s deck. The man then reportedly leaned over the rail and punched Hoving in the face.

Hoving told the Review that “almost instantaneously after the second time he struck me, Pat got between him and I to protect me,” which is when, she alleges, the man pulled DeCola over the railing.

Police have called the case “an unfortunate accident,” but an investigation is still pending. No arrests have been made yet. Police are also awaiting the results of a toxicology report on DeCola.

The man being accused by Hoving could not be immediately reached.  

Jim Buckley, owner of Mugsy’s, who was not present at the time of the incident, said, “I have nothing at all to do with that property (7638 Madison.) He did not fall from my building.”

Buckley also noted that no one was over served at the bar that night and added: “It could be anybody blowing off the fireworks.”

Pat Littlecreek, owner of the apartment building at 7638 Madison, as well as the business at the same address, declined to comment. Steve Glinke, director of the village’s building department, said there were no building code violations related to the railing or the death in general. When the police inspected the scene, however, they did make a referral to the building department, having noted some property maintenance issues, such as a missing peephole and smoke detector, peeling paint and debris on the roof, to name a few.

The tenants at the apartment are currently being evicted. Though two people were on the lease, at least five people were temporarily living in the unit.

DeCola – a freelance carpenter from Hillside — had been staying there for about 10 months. Hoving, who is also from Hillside and dated DeCola for nearly 20 years, starting at age 14 – moved into the apartment at the end of July. She said she had previously served some time in prison.

The two were “rekindling” their relationship, hoping to soon get their own place to live with their children, Hoving said.

DeCola, a graduate of Proviso West High School, was described as a friendly man who loved the outdoors, including activities such as camping and fishing.

Hoving said for about five years, he lived with her sick parents to take care of “everything from planting tomatoes to doing laundry.”

As a “talented” carpenter who could “build a home from the ground up,” he was about to start a new job the Monday after he died.

“It’s a nightmare for everybody,” said a friend of DeCola’s who asked not to be identified. “I lost one of my best friends. …He was a good guy.”