East Harlem, NY – Elderly man in critical condition after elevator crushes his legs

According to ABC 7 Eyewitness News, an 85 year-old man was left in critical condition after an elevator in his public housing apartment building crushed both his legs around 5 p.m. Sunday, December 30, 2012. Firefighters reported that when they arrived, the elevator was stuck between the first and second floor, with the man’s body inside the cab, and his legs dangling outside the cab on the first floor. Firefighters used air bags and other extrication methods to free the man’s legs and pull him up into the elevator cab. The victim was rushed to nearby Harlem Hospital where he was listed in critical condition, with both of his legs fractured. Read the full story by ABC 7 Eyewitness News, published December 31, 2012, and watch the video report below.

Interestingly, this is the third consecutive year in which a passenger was seriously injured or killed by an elevator in New York City that moved with the doors open during the month of December. On December 25, 2010, a woman was seriously injured at SUNY Downstate Medical Center when an elevator ascended unexpectedly while she was in the open doorway, and on December 14, 2011, Suzanne Hart was fatally crushed under similar circumstances. In both of those cases, an elevator mechanic was found to have used a wire jumper to bypass the elevator’s door interlock and gate switch safety circuits. Although there is no information yet as to what caused this incident, given that the firefighters described the man’s legs as “dangling outside” the elevator, it is very likely that the elevator moved while its doors were still open, and while the man was within the door threshold. It is not yet clear why the elevator would have moved while the doors were still open. The Department of Buildings will likely conduct an investigation and we will publish the results of that investigation when that information becomes available to us.

The New York City Housing Authority is notably the single largest operator of elevators in the City of New York, and is responsible for over 3,300 elevators in nearly 2,600 residential buildings, serving over 400,000 residents. The reliability of elevators in New York City’s public housing has long been a sore point with residents. A memorable New York Times article published March 12, 2005 famously opened with, “Up, up, up it rises, this elevator redolent of urine, groaning toward the rooftop of another tired building in the Queensbridge public housing development, the largest in Queens, in New York, in North America.” On June 12, 2012, the New York City Housing Authority reached a settlement with tenants in a class action lawsuit that alleged the Housing Authority let its fleet of elevators fall into “widespread disrepair and dysfunction.” The case is Brito v. New York City Housing Authority, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No 09-1621.

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