3 Catastrophic Elevator Accidents

In a model constructed by Bill Nye for an 1989 episode of Almost Live, a persistent question is answered:  If you were to jump at the last moment before hitting the ground, would you be able to avoid injury in a falling elevator?

For the experiment, Bill Nye places a volunteer named Alan the Egg in a small, pulley-operated apparatus meant to simulate an elevator.  There is a lever underneath Al’s seat designed to activate when the “elevator” hits the bottom, propelling Alan into the air at the precise moment of landing.  When the lift cord is cut, the Almost Live audience sees the hapless Alan the Egg crushed when the elevator bounces back and sends him against the ceiling of the elevator.  As it turns out, Al was doomed all along.

Elevators are not always the slightly dull, yet reliable machines they are made out to be.  The Center to Protect Workers’ Rights charges elevators with about 30 deaths and 10,000 injuries each year.  Forty-nine percent of elevator-related deaths are caused by falls; 21% involve getting caught in/between them; 15% result when a person is struck.

The following stories are intensely disturbing and terribly tragic illustrations the very real dangers present when elevators gone wrong.  All were freak accidents that could in no wise have been prevented by the victims.  However, they are being shared here in the hope that a person similarly affected by negligence will recognize similarities between these and their stories and seek what help is due to them as a result.

1. Deborah Jordan

A 27-year-old elevator mechanic who failed to activate a mechanism to prevent a hospital elevator from moving when the doors were open was charged with felony assault after his oversight resulted in the injury of Deborah Jordan.  Ms Jordan had been visiting a patient with her daughter on Christmas day when the elevator door closed on her.  Her arm and leg were outside the elevator for 8 floors, and she suffered a compound fracture in her arm and other injuries to her leg.  Her daughter and everyone in the building (throughout which Jordan’s screams were easily audible) were subjected to terrified helplessness until help arrived.

2. Annette Lujan

On the morning of December 8, 2011, Annette Lujan became trapped in an elevator in the university where she worked as a grant writer.  The car had somehow gotten stuck between the 3rd and 4th floors.  When Ms. Lujan either tried to exit the elevator or fell, the elevator car dropped before she could exit entirely, killing her on impact.  After the incident, a number of Lujan’s coworkers attested that the elevators in that building often stuck, and that the situation from which Lujan had sought to extract herself was not just an isolated incident.

3. Suzanne Hart

A week later, Suzanne Hart was boarding an elevator for work  when it “suddenly shot upward,” door still ajar.  The 41-year-old advertising director fell forward and was crushed between floors  The man and woman who were passengers at the time were traumatized by the horrific accident.  Investigation of the accident revealed that 13 of the building’s elevators had been in violation of 56 codes since 2001.

To redirect, elevator accidents are thankfully rare and, as the statistics indicate, highly survivable.  Yet, whether the victim perishes or suffers serious injury, someone is going to be saddled with funereal and/or medical expenses, as the case may be.  When such a disastrous occurrence transpires needlessly, or because of an evasion of responsibility, the victims are entitled to compensation from those who should be held accountable.  However, assigning fault, even where it patently exists, is a difficult task.

Because high-cost injury cases can become combative, those facing the difficult task of seeking compensation for an elevator accident may consider retaining a personal injury attorney to guide them through the process or more, as the situation my require.  For anyone needing to contact a personal injury attorney in the Salt Lake City area, Christensen & Hymas offer initial consultations free of cost.  To make a appointment, even without intent of retainment, call (801) 506-0800.
Image courtesy of Sam Howzit

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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