According to the New York Post, the superintendent at a building in Washington Heights was seriously injured Thursday, August 16, 2012 when he was struck in the head by an elevator counterweight. The victim, whose name was not immediately released, went in the pit around 8:40 a.m. in order to retrieve keys that a tenant had accidentally dropped through the gap between the floor sills. The elevator had apparently ascended to the sixth floor as the counterweight descended into the pit, striking the victim’s head. Read the full story by the New York Post.
A later article by DNAinfo.com New York reported that the building’s managing agent, Bronstein Properties LLC, identified the victim as Armando Bennett. Bronstein Properties’ spokesman Joe Masino noted, “I don’t allow my supers to go down the shaft, [they] should call the elevator company.”
If the spokeman’s statement is accurate, then it is not clear how the superintendent opened the hoistway door in order to gain access to the pit, unless it was a walk-in pit, which it does not appear to be given that the victim was describing as doing “down the shaft” to access the pit. Based on the media accounts of the accident, it appears that the victim may have entered the pit without first gaining control of the car, for example, via the stop switch in the pit. Assuming the superintendent entered the pit without gaining control of the car, and the door closed behind him, the elevator would resume automatic operation, for example, responding to the a sixth (top) floor call, which would have then sent the counterweight into the pit at full speed.
Possession of hoistway door keys is restricted by ASME A17.1 Rule 8.1.2, which covers Group 1, “Restricted” keys. Keys in Group 1 are restricted to elevator personnel only. Unfortunately it is all too common that unauthorized individuals obtain hoistway door keys. This accident serves as a reminder that an elevator hoistway is one of the most dangerous areas in a building, and only properly trained elevator personnel should ever access the hoistway. If an object falls into the pit, it is critical to wait for elevator personnel to retrieve the item to prevent injuries like this.