A man named Samuel Charles Waisbren was killed in a tragic elevator accident at the Manhattan Promenade, a residential building located at 344 Third Ave. in Kips Bay, on Thursday, August 22, 2019. Disturbingly, it is being reported that the owners of this building were recently fined for unsafe elevator conditions in the building.
Firefighters were called to the scene, where they found Waisbren trapped between the elevator and the elevator shaft, according to the New York Times. Security footage from the lobby showed that there were multiple people on the elevator, and that two people stepped out of the elevator when it stopped at the first floor. The door then began to close and the elevator started to descend, and Waisbren “put out his hand to try to stop the door from closing.” Unfortunately, however, the elevator continued to go down, and he was caught as he tried to exit to the lobby.
The FDNY worked to free Waisbren, but unfortunately, he was pronounced dead at the scene. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the many people who have been forever impacted by this incident, particularly the friends and family of Samuel C. Waisbren, whose life was cut short in such a brutal, random fashion.
The Manhattan Promenade is a 23-story building with two elevators for the tenants who live there. In May, however, the company that owns the building was fined after inspectors from the NYC Department of Buildings “found that a safety feature on one of the elevators had been disabled or tampered with.” This safety feature was the “door zone restrictor,” which prevents the door from opening widely while the elevator is between floors.
The building was ordered to take the elevator out of commission until it could be repaired. In a disturbing twist, however, tenants told the New York Times that they were never told about the problem and were still using the elevator until it was shut down on Wednesday for a separate issue.
Investigators have determined that the victim was not riding the elevator which was the subject of the fine when this tragic accident occurred. However, another building owned by the building company, named ATA Enterprises, has also received fines for unsafe elevator conditions in the past, raising serious questions about the safety conditions of the buildings they own and maintain.
The New York Times reports that ATA Enterprises hired an elevator repair company, named American Elevator & Machine Corporation, to repair wiring on both elevators in the Manhattan Promenade just one month ago. Neither company has thus far commented on this accident, however, and it is not yet clear if the repairs requested had actually taken place before this tragedy occurred.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable putting my kids in an elevator here again,” resident Dayna Sargen told the New York Times. “The elevators are constantly breaking down, there are very, very frequent maintenance issues with the elevator.”
Elevator accidents are very rare, particularly when accounting for the number of people that use them every single day. There are about 30 fatalities a year caused by elevators and escalators in the United States, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. About half of these deaths, however, involve workers who are performing some type of installation, repair or maintenance work on the elevator, such as this $2,250,000 settlement that our attorneys secured for the wife of a man killed while installing an elevator.
When you consider that elevators in the U.S. make roughly 18 billion trips a year, the likelihood of a passenger being killed in an elevator accident is incredibly small – which makes tragedies such as this all the more unacceptable.
Earlier this year, the New York State Senate passed a bill that would strengthen the licensing requirements for inspectors and technicians who perform elevator work in New York, as well as create a state-wide Elevator Safety and Standards Board. While this bill had been approved by the Senate, however, it had not yet been delivered to or approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
There is nothing that can undo the profound trauma and grief that the friends and family of Samuel Waisbren now have to deal with because of this senseless, preventable tragedy. Hopefully, all parties who allowed this hazardous condition to exist, and then not be properly dealt with, can be held accountable for their actions, so that such an accident never happens again.
There is simply no excuse not to operate an elevator in perfect working order. We hope that decisive action is taken against all responsible parties so that message can be heard loud and clear.