A malfunctioning elevator that killed a 41-year-old advertising executive last December had an important safety mechanism disabled, according to a city investigation released Monday.
The investigation, conducted by the Buildings Department and the Department of Investigation, found that workers repairing elevators at the Madison Avenue building turned off the safety mechanism so they could gain access to the tops of the elevator cabs. An elevator mechanic used a wire to disable the safety mechanism. When it’s engaged, the mechanism keeps doors locked and closed prior to an elevator moving. The report says using a “jumper” wire is common practice during maintenance work, but investigators allege the wire was never removed, allowing the elevator to move between floors with its doors open.
“These workers and their supervisors failed to follow the most basic safety procedures, and their carelessness cost a woman her life,” Buildings Commissioner Robert Li Mandri said in a written statement.
The worker from Transel Elevators admitted to investigators that he used the wire but denied forgetting to remove it. The mechanic's lawyer says he's been completely cooperative with the investigation.
Suzanne Hart, who worked for Y&R, was entering the elevator from the lobby when the elevator lurched upward with its doors open, trapping and killing her.
The Building's Department has suspended Transel Elevator’s license and issued the company 23 violations with more than $117,000 worth of penalties attached.
The findings of the investigation have been forwarded to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Transel said it was still reviewing the report.