Woman Dies in Elevator Malfunction in New York Office Building

A tragic malfunction in an elevator in Midtown Manhattan has left one woman dead and a city in shock. On the morning of December 14, 2011, 41 year-old Suzanne Hart was entering the elevator on the way to her job at an advertising firm at 285 Madison Avenue. While she had one foot in the elevator, it suddenly lurched upward, dragging her with it. The elevator stopped between the first and second floors, with her trapped between the elevator and the wall. Two other passengers in the elevator were unhurt but trapped there for an hour. Rescuers pronounced Hart dead at the scene, but could not remove her body for several more hours.

No definitive explanation for what happened has appeared yet. Some sort of electrical malfunction may be the most likely culprit, but the incident has had a profound impact on a city dependent on elevators. According to the New York Times, New York City has over 60,000 elevators. There were fifty-three accidents involving elevators last year, but only three were fatal. Hart’s death turned a mundane, everyday activity into something terrifying. Other daily activities, such as driving a car, have known risks and well-publicized dangers, but an elevator ride seems to hold a particular resonance for many people.

The city’s Department of Buildings is conducting an investigation of the incident. The building has remained closed since the day of the accident, but is expected to reopen in January 2012. A spokesperson for the Department said that the accident had raised “structural concerns” for the entire building, an indicator of the force of the elevator’s movement. Transel Elevator, Inc., which services elevators all over the city and acknowledges doing electrical maintenance work on that particular elevator several hours before the accident, is a focus of the investigation. The biggest mystery for investigators, according to CBS News, is why all of the elevator’s safeguards seem to have failed at once. Elevators have safety mechanisms that should prevent them from moving while the doors are open. These mechanisms have several backups, but none of them worked that morning.

According to the New York Times, a Transel employee died in September, the last fatal elevator accident in New York City, when he fell down an elevator shaft in the Garment District. Elevator fatalities are rare, but they have a way of capturing people’s fears. A famous case that has become the stuff of urban legends involved a doctor in Houston in 2003. The elevators doors closed as he was entering the car, trapping him. When the car lurched upward, he was partially decapitated. An investigation found that a wiring error by an employee of the elevator maintenance company caused the accident. The doctor’s family reached a settlement for wrongful death with the elevator company in 2004.

A person injured because of dangerous conditions on a piece of property may be entitled to compensation from the owner or manager of that property. If you or a loved one has been injured in such an incident, contact the Maryland personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen online or at (800) 654-1949 to discuss your case today.

More Blog Posts:

Washington DC Escalator Accident Injures 52-Year-Old Metro Rider, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, April 28, 2011
Maryland Personal Injury Lawsuit filed Over Ocean City Escalator Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 18, 2009
Three People Injured in Baltimore County When Elevator Falls, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 30, 2008

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