Chad Wolfe, a 31-year-old auto mechanic from West Newtown, Pennsylvania, was found dead around 3 a.m. on March 15, 2013, after he apparently fell down an elevator hoistway at Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Florida. Initial reports noted that the victim was intoxicated and behaving erratically, including climbing on a tree in the airport lobby, moments before the accident occurred. The medical examiner’s report noted that the victim had an “oil-like substance” on his hands, and that the investigating detective noted that it appeared the victim “forced open [the] elevator door to gain entry into the elevator shaft.”
Initial reports noted that the hoistway door interlock on the elevator had been “compromised” and that it “had been tampered with” but added that there was no indication that the interlock had malfunctioned prior to the incident. The elevator had passed its most recent inspection before the accident.
This case serves as an unfortunate reminder that the general public should never try to access an elevator hoistway for any reason. The hoistway door interlock, like any other mechanical or electronic device, can be damaged by abuse or vandalism, leading to failures, which can result in unfortunate situations like this where a passenger was able to pry the doors open with their bare hands. Hoistway doors should remain fully closed and locked any time the elevator is not present at that landing. An open hoistway should always be treated as an imminently dangerous fatal hazard.
Download the medical examiner’s report, as provided by 10 News WTSP, or watch their video reports, below:
Sources reporting this incident locally include:
- 10 News WTSP – Medical Examiner: Death of Chad Wolfe, man who fell down Tampa International Airport elevator shaft, ruled an accident
- 10 News WTSP – Body found at TIA
- Bay News 9 – Elevator death at Tampa International Airport ruled accident
- ABC Action News – Tampa International Airport elevator shaft death ruled an accident
- Tampa Bay Times – Elevator death at Tampa airport determined to be accidental
- Bay News 9 – Surveillance video released of man who died in TIA elevator shaft
- ABC Action News – Airport elevator accident victim Chad Wolfe laid to rest in his native Pennsylvania on Thursday