Woman suffers medical condition at New York City shelter, dies after getting stuck in elevator

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- A homeless woman who suffered a medical condition at a New York City shelter died after getting trapped in an elevator with EMTs for nearly an hour.

The Department of Homeless Services is calling the death of shelter resident Anna DeJesus "a heartbreaking loss," but residents and family members tell 7 On Your Side Investigates that she might still be alive had the women's shelter on East 45th Street maintained their elevators.

According to several residents at the New Providence Shelter, the 60-year-old DeJesus went into cardiac arrest on March 11. Medics had to use a service elevator because the shelter's main elevator had been broken for months.

But the freight elevator broke down, trapping Dejesus and EMTs inside.

"I feel like if the elevator did not break down, she might have been at the hospital to get help and still be alive," friend and shelter resident Kaiola Browne said.

A DHS Official says that DeJesus was overdosing and did not respond to naloxone, a drug commonly used to revive overdose patients.

Several shelter residents dispute that, saying DeJesus had been complaining about not feeling well. The Medical Examiner's Office tells Eyewitness News that the cause of death has not been determined.

Department of Buildings records show a long list of complaints about the shelter's passenger elevator dating back several years, including an open violation from last November for failure to fix the elevator.

After DeJesus collapsed in her room two weeks ago, the freight elevator stopped halfway down. A DHS Official called it "a confluence of unfortunate events."

The violation is against the Department of Homeless Services, which owns the building. DHS says the shelter operator, Project Renewal, is responsible for elevator maintenance.

"The elevator where the incident occurred is a new elevator that was recently installed with city funding," Project Renewal Spokesman Zac Roy said in a statement to Eyewitness News. "We take the safety and well-being of our clients very seriously."

Some shelter residents believe a lack of urgency in repairing the main elevator may have cost DeJesus her life.

"(They) just kept breaking down off and on," resident Cheryl Stiller said. "They'd call people to come to fix them. They'd do a flimsy job."

Residents say very soon after the incident, both elevators were working.

DHS spokesperson Arianna Fishman said DeKesus' passing is a "heartbreaking loss" and that they offer family, friends, and fellow residents "all the support that they can during this difficult time."

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