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Repairman charged in Brooklyn elevator accident

December 15, 2011 2:14:27 PM PST
A woman visiting a hospital last Christmas Day became trapped by a faulty elevator that started moving while its doors were open and was dragged up several floors, crushing her arm and leg against the wall of the elevator shaft, after a repairman wrongly disabled a safety switch, prosecutors said Thursday.

The prosecutors' announcement came a day after an advertising executive stepping into an elevator at her office building was dragged and crushed to death, but the two horrific accidents were unrelated.

"I guess everybody gets into an elevator. ... Me, I'm claustrophobic," Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said in announcing criminal charges against the repairman. "I'm always concerned of being trapped between floors, but I never would think of something like this happening."

Deborah Jordan was at SUNY Downstate Medical Center getting into the elevator to visit a patient with her daughter last Christmas when she stepped onto an elevator that suddenly lurched up. Her leg became trapped outside, in the space between the elevator car and she elevator shaft, and scraped against the floors as the lift rose.

Her daughter is seen on surveillance video reacting in horror as she is dragged up. As she moves up the hospital, doctors gasp and turn and run to try to get help. One woman covers her ears because of Jordan's screams.

Jordan, 47, went up eight floors, to where a repairman was working and had called up the faulty elevator by wrongly tripping a switch, prosecutors said. Normally, elevators don't move if a door is open.

Hynes said investigators determined the repairman, who arrived shortly before Jordan was injured, was to blame.

The repairman, Jason Jordan, who's no relation to the injured woman, should have gone floor to floor to make sure no one was inside the faulty elevator before he tripped the switch on it and should have had someone working with him, prosecutors said.

The repairman was charged Thursday with assault and reckless endangerment and was released without bail. He said outside court it was a terrible accident.

"That accident happened after I left (the hospital)," he said.

The injured woman spent three months in a hospital being treated and is still in a rehabilitation center, prosecutors said.

On Wednesday, Manhattan advertising executive Suzanne Hart was stepping onto an elevator at her Madison Avenue office building when it rose abruptly with its doors still open, pulling her along.

She was crushed to death between floors.

It may seem, given the timing of the cases, that such elevator accidents are common, but they're not. The Department of Buildings said last year there were 53 elevator accidents reported out of more than 60,000 working elevators throughout the city.

Investigators with the buildings department were trying to determine what went wrong. Safety mechanisms are supposed to prevent elevators from moving while their doors are open.

Hynes urged the passage of a bill, led by state Assemblyman Keith Wright, that would amend labor laws to require continuing education and licensing for people who operate elevators to help avoid accidents like the ones that killed Hart and injured Jordan.

"It's not a particularly common event," Hynes said, "but that it happens at all, and the juxtaposition between the death of that poor woman just recently and what happened to Miss Jordan, has got to make everyone very, very concerned."

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