Suzanne Hart: Killed minutes after workers left the elevator
An elevator crushed Suzanne Hart two minutes after workers stepped out of the same elevator and left the building, according to a new report.
Mechanics had been repairing elevators where Hart, 41, was killed in December at her 285 Madison Ave. office building, in an incident that shook the city.
A new 84-page report from the Department of Buildings and the city’s Department of Investigation reports a safety device was disabled on the elevator that shot up and crushed Hart.
While working on the elevators, workers disabled the safety device to allow mechanics to climb on top of the elevator cabs, investigators reported, and this allowed the elevator to move with its doors open.
The safety system was apparently not re-activated, investigators concluded.
Investigators said Michael Hill, a mechanic with 28 years of experience, confirmed he used a wire to override the system, which allows the elevator to move with its door open while workers fix problems.
Hill told investigators he removed the wire before the incident, taking it with him to another job site. Investigators noted that they found a wire near the elevator’s control box.
The morning of Dec. 14, as Hart moved toward elevator No. 9, two passengers entered and hit the buttons for their floors. Seconds later, the elevator rose with the doors open as Hart stepped in, killing her.
Workers “failed to follow basic safety procedures,” according to investigators, including placing caution tape across the elevator and notifying the DOB to inspect the elevators before putting them back in service.
“Their carelessness cost a woman her life,” DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri said. “Their blatant disregard for the law and public safety is inexcusable. If these safety measures were in place, this tragedy would have been prevented.”
The DOB suspended the license of Transel’s owner, John Fichera, and slapped the company with 23 violations, carrying a minimum fine of $117,000.
“The investigation starkly showed elevator safety protocols were ignored,” DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said. “These findings are a caution to all licensed building professionals in the city, especially those in the elevator industry.”
The DOB referred their findings to the Manhattan district attorney’s office for potential prosecution, where a spokeswoman said it is under investigation.