How it can go wrong: The perils of elevator rides in NYC

SUNY Downstate Medical Center

At least 22 people have been killed in passenger elevators or shafts in New York City since 2010. In that same span of time, there have been more than 500 incidents, 48 of which led to serious injuries, according to the city’s Department of Buildings.

The following incidents involve mechanics and passengers, and illustrate the perils of elevator rides in NYC.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Brooklyn — Dec. 25, 2010

Debra Jordan was visiting a sick friend on Christmas Day when she entered the elevator at the hospital and tripped. As if her worst nightmare was about to unfold, the elevator shot up to the eighth floor, catching her limbs along the way. A subsequent investigation found that the elevator’s mechanic, Jason Jordan (no relation to Debra), had employed a commonly used repair shortcut to bypass a safety mechanism that allowed him to check for defective door locks from the elevator motor room, rather than independently checking each floor in the building. He became the first mechanic in U.S. history to be indicted for an elevator incident; in 2015, he was convicted of  felony assault and sentenced to three months in prison. Debra now has no mobility in her left leg and is confined to a wheelchair.

331 Park Avenue South

331 Park Avenue South
Manhattan — December 4, 2013

Jaroslaw Mychajluk was a 67-year-old superintendent at the 12-story building, which was then owned by F.M. Ring Associates. While there is limited available information as to what happened, Mychajluk was found dead at the base of the building’s elevator shaft. Building records show that five DOB elevator violations were issued in the months leading up to the incident. The elevator maintenance firm, Elevator Testing Company, was also penalized earlier in the year for failing to conduct a Category 5 test on the building’s elevator in a timely manner. Following Mychajluk’s death, the DOB issued two Environmental Control Board (ECB) violations for failure to maintain the elevator. F.M. Ring paid $5,828 in penalties, records show.

41-90 Frame Place

41-90 Frame Place
Queens — August 6, 2014

Hong Wang was attempting to load a refrigerator into the elevator on the fourth floor, but when he stepped through the doors, the elevator was not there: It was waiting at the floor below. The fall killed him. Following the incident, an ECB violation was issued for a wire problem with the door locks, “causing elevator to run while hoistway door was in open position,” and another was issued for failing to maintain the unit. The building owner, Ilan Apartments LLC, ultimately paid $6,000 in penalties. P&W Elevator, which was assigned to the building’s elevator maintenance, carried out a Category 1 test on the unit a year earlier.

131 Broome Street

131 Broome Street
Manhattan — December 31, 2015

Shortly after helping a woman out of the elevator and wishing her a “happy New Year,” Stephen Hewett-Brown was fatally crushed. Just after he’d gotten on the elevator, the car fell and then stopped suddenly, according to the New York Times. Passengers pried the doors open, and Hewett-Brown, who was attending a party in the Lower East Side building, gave a boost to one of the residents out of the elevator. But then the elevator started moving, and Hewett-Brown was pinned between the third floor and the car’s ceiling. North American Elevator had performed the last annual test on the elevator. Residents had complained about elevators in the building — co-owned by the city and the Archdiocese of New York’s Catholic Charities — at least six times in the months leading up to the incident, DOB records show.

50 Broadway

50 Broadway
Manhattan — May 26, 2016

Eugeny Krasnov, a mechanic for Centennial Elevator Industries, was working on a year-old elevator at 50 Broadway when his arm was severed at the elbow. In a lawsuit filed in June 2016, Krasnov blames the landlord of the 33-story office tower, the United Federation of Teachers, for, among other things, failing to turn off the power to adjoining cars that were running while he was working. The landlord is also suing Centennial in connection with the incident. According to a violation against the elevator maintenance company issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Krasnov was removing a steel cable that got caught on an adjacent elevator that was moving. Centennial should have shut off the adjacent elevator, according to OSHA.

555 10th Avenue

555 10th Avenue
Manhattan — July 23, 2017

Electrician Steven Simpson, 53, had clocked out but had forgotten something on a higher floor in Extell Development’s luxury rental building. He had been working on the fifth floor, in a commercial condo owned by Success Academy charter schools. As he was riding the elevator up, the building’s power shut off, trapping him inside, WNBC-TV reported at the time. Simpson pried the doors open and tried to climb out, but the elevator began moving again unexpectedly, catching him between the floor and part of the doorway. He was found dead in the shaft. The DOB subsequently hit Success Academy with violations related to the fatality and to unauthorized use of the elevator for construction uses.

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