NYC Elevator Death Prompts Safety Legislation

Posted on August 24, 2012 at 9:48am by

On Dec. 14, 2011, 41-year-old advertising executive Suzanne Hart, director of new business and content at Y&R, died in a tragic elevator accident in Midtown Manhattan. As she stepped into an elevator in the lobby of her Madison Avenue office building, the car lurched upward with its doors open, dragging her into the elevator shaft and pinning half of her body between the first and second floors. Two other passengers, who sustained minor injuries, could only watch in horror as Hart was crushed to death.

In February, elevator service company Transel Elevator Inc. announced the firing of five mechanics and apprentices who were on duty when Hart died. The announcement came just two days after a city investigation revealed that an important safety mechanism had been overridden about half an hour before the elevator accident occurred. The safety mechanism, which prevents a car from moving with its doors open, had been turned off to enable work on the elevator. Although the mechanic who disabled it, Michael Hill, insisted the safety mechanism was back online when Hart tried to step into the elevator, investigators concluded it was not.

The procedure of overriding this safety feature is known as jumping. Jumping allows mechanics to position an elevator between floors, so they can open the doors to the shaft and step onto the top of the car to perform work on it. Hill claims he did not accidentally leave the jumping wire on the control panel after the elevator was in position; however, investigators found the type of wire used for jumping under the metal-grate floor.

Investigators not only determined the safety mechanism was still disabled when the elevator resumed service, they also discovered the elevator had been put back into service without proper clearance from the Buildings Department and that workers had failed to follow simple precautions such as putting caution tape across the elevator door. According to The New York Times, the Buildings Department issued 23 violations to Transel and suspended the company owner’s license, in addition to issuing 11 violations to building owner Y&R.

From Hart’s tragic death sprung new elevator safety legislation in New York City. A City Council bill was introduced in April that would require elevator mechanics to be licensed. Currently, no such licensing requirements exist. The announcement of this bill came on the heels of two more elevator accidents: on Mar. 28, a mechanic was fatally electrocuted while working on a Midtown elevator, and the very next day, a 17-year-old passenger was injured when a Bronx elevator plummeted six stories after its cable snapped. The City Council is also considering another bill that would require elevators in residential and mixed-use buildings to have a safety brake mechanism that would prevent the car from crashing into the top of the shaft in the event of sudden acceleration.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in an elevator accident, contact an Atlantic City injury attorney today. An Atlantic City injury lawyer will fight to protect your rights under premises liability law.

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