Officials To Probe Transel Elevator Inc. In Deadly Midtown Accident

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Manhattan elevator company with a long and prominent list of clients is at the center of a deadly elevator accident.  Transel Elevator Inc. is under investigation and under the microscope following Wednesday’s tragedy in Midtown.

The Department of Buildings said technicians from the company were doing electrical maintenance on the elevator hours before 41-year-old Suzanne Hart was crushed and killed inside the lobby of the Young & Rubicam building at 285 Madison Ave. as she was stepping inside the elevator.

“Workers from Transel were performing electrical maintenance work on the elevator involved in the accident hours before it malfunctioned.  This work has now become the focus of our investigation,” Department of Buildings Spokesperson Tony Sclafani told 1010 WINS on Thursday.

The elevator company had no comment and investigators will be back on the scene Friday to continue their inspection of that particular elevator and 13 others in the building.  The building voluntarily closed its doors on Thursday and Friday as the investigation continues.

Authorities said that at around 10 a.m. Wednesday, Hart was stepping inside the elevator when it suddenly shot upward, its doors still open. Building department sources tell CBS 2 she fell forward and was crushed between the rising elevator and the wall above.

Emergency officials were finally able to remove Hart’s body at around 7 p.m. Wednesday, almost 10 hours after the accident.

New York elevator expert Patrick Carrajat is familiar with the kind of freak accident that killed Hart. He told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin that the biggest mystery is why major safeguards, sensors and switches with the elevator failed all at once.

“The most common one I’ve seen has been human error. Basically an elevator technician working on the elevator not aware the elevator is in passenger service, allows the elevator to move with circuits disabled,” Carrajat said.

Carrajat also bemoaned the fact that inspections do not happen as often as they probably should.

“The code requires five inspections every two years. We’re getting one a year on average,” Carrajat said.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ John Montone reports

Hart’s father, Alex Hart, who lives in Florida, arrived at his daughter’s Brooklyn home around the same time.

“She was a beautiful person. I don’t have words, don’t have words for this,” said Hart’s boyfriend, Chris Dickson. “I loved her.”

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports

Hart was known as both an engaging, hard-working executive and a friendly neighbor.

“I feel horrible about it,” said neighbor Kristi Molinaro. “She was a really nice woman and I’m in shock.”

“It’s very scary, actually, and to think that the elevator just slammed on her like that and she was caught,” said neighbor Diane Kepple.

A spokesman said it was last inspected in June and there were no safety violations. The other 12 elevators in the building are still in service. But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said he is deeply troubled by the accident.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports

“I’m very concerned that over a 12-month period, this building received unsatisfactory four times on inspections to their elevators,” he said.

For years, Stringer has been calling for more information about elevators to be posted.

“So right now, the inspection was an unsatisfactory, but was it for a missing light bulb in the elevator or was there real structural damage that perhaps could have caused this horrific accident?” Stringer said.

There are 60,000 elevators in operation in New York City and deadly accidents like Wednesday’s are rare. Last year, they happened less than 1 percent of the time.

Please share your thoughts below…

  • Bill R

    Elevators fail in other cities also…and it has nothing to do with graft. I’m involved in forensic evaluations of elevator accidents. The Houston accident a few years ago was traced to two human errors. One at the time of installation…one years later…it took the combined of both errors to allow the elevator to move while the doctor entered the car…causing another crush death.

    The cause of this accident will be discovered. I agree with John P., the most likely cause of this failure was a technician leaving a jumper on the controller…allowing the door lock circuit to be defeated.

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    If she was a black woman no one would care

    • Santa Claus

      I certainly wouldn’t. Like they don’t care about whites.

    • Matty

      thats a stupid thing to say….thanks for that ignorant comment…

  • John P.

    Highest probability for cause – failure to remove jumpers (temporary wires) placed on controller to disable 2 safety circuits designed to prevent the elevator from moving until both sets of doors are fully closed. This is done, at times, by elevator technicians/engineers to perform maintenance tasks or troubleshoot a malfunction that require working on a moving elevator with open doors.

    Every elevator company should have a safety process in place to control jumpers. Have to prevent accidentally leaving jumpers on controls where they can and have in the past, produced deadly results.

    The building department should focus on what can be done to make sure proper jumper safety processes are in place at every firm operating in the city.

    • cj

      John P. seems to have knowledge of elevators. Is it likely he has had the same thing happen when he worked on an elevator

      • John P.

        Knowledge of the potential hazard, yes, personal experience, no.

        There was a fatality in Houston several years ago, in which a resident physician, working at a hospital, was crushed by an elevator. I believe that the cause was traced back to human error involving jumpers being left on the controller.

        Neither incident involved the company I worked for, so all I heard was second hand information from technicians and safety personnel.

  • Anthony Barrion

    All I can say is I’ve known a number of Transel techs and they all been good engineers. These guys think about safety all day long.

    In most union jobs the biggest liability is the helpers know very little. I worry that the low-grade tech who was on the job at this building did something he shouldn’t have without thinking it through properly or without the proper supervision of the senior engineer onsite.

    • mmacfarlyn

      Anthony Barrian, you are a fool. This is a typical local 1 puke statement. The helper may be the biggest liability but doesn’t the helper go through the same four years of apprenticeship as the local 1 mechanics? local 1 has some many men on the bench, they are sending MECHANICS out as HELPERS and pushing helpers to the bench. I know Many helpers who have fa
      r more knowledge then the mechanics. You talk and sound like a foolish local 1 mutt.
      When all goes well, it’s the mechanics moment in the sun but when an accident happens, its the helpers fault right? this seems to be what your indicating.
      FWI: MIC, Mechanic in charge. enough said. At the end of the day, THE MECHANIC takes full responsibility for what goes on with the job.
      From what the article suggests, It’s seems a MAINTENANCE MECHANIC responded to a TROUBLE CALL earlier in the morning to deal with what was probably a door lock issue.
      most MAINTENANCE MECHANICS responding to a trouble call usually don’t have helpers hanging around the motor room. Even if he did, It is the MECHANIC that has the final say before t
      he car goes back into service. He was probably half drunk and half asleep at the wheel and it cost this poor woman her life. Too lazy to carry his belly back up to the motor room t
      o remove the jumper from the controller. SHEEET, this moron probably had the entire safety string jumped out.
      Yet another Black EYE for the government overseen LOCAL 1.
      I hope Lenny legoti, Mike Halpin and Dennis O’Neil are happy with the kinda of junk local 1 turns out. Many of these guy are Dummies anyways.
      All and ALL, it is the mechanic who will be help personally responsible for this very careless foolish incompetent mistake.
      this is what $50 something/hour gets your.

      • sMeLLmYgOOdS

        Why are you so bitter towards local 1? I am a former Local # member and have switched over for a higher pay and the ability to have a job anywhere in the country. I am also a strong supporter of having a nationally unified system in place where you would have to be certified and licensed in order to work on elevators just as it is in other trades. Local 1 members have brought a bill to albany to suggest this but it was squashed by heavy lobbying efforts by a larger union (local 3) with alot more resources and money. in other words stop being the electricians bitch and join a nationally recognized union.

        • Meho

          Another local 1 mutt. Take your head out of Lenny’s a$$. I have a better idea other than joining “a nationally recognized union”. How about we just squash the union as most of them are overweight and over paid anyway. Then maybe things like this accident will be far fewer in between. You guys are a joke.

    • billb

      Are transel employees card carrying members?

      • meho

        they are a signatory company with 1, yes, they may also be a split shop with 3. I don’t know if all of them have cards though.

  • Very conservative

    Liberalism is a mental disorder.

  • Matty

    Transel Elevator Company had the maintenance contract with this building. Having experience working with elevators /escalators for 10 years, it sounds to me like a complete safety circuit had been “jumped out” meaning that a employee with Transel left wires on the controller that should have been removed immediately after troubleshooting/maintenance work. This safety circuit that was possibly disabled controls the elevator moving with ANY door open more then 1/64th of an inch…amongst a lot of other technical components that DEFINITELY would have prevented this tragedy from happening. The other thing that comes to mind is possibility the brake that holds the elevator (when parked at a floor) somehow became loosened or not adjusted properly and the elevator cab started to drift upwards with the doors still opened. It drifts upwards because the cab is connected to weights on the other side of the hoist cables. I don’t really want to speculate what REALLY happened, just some things that came to me as possibilities. My prayers go out to the Hart family and those people in the building affected by this..especially the 2 people who were in the elevator car when this happened.

  • Rugbyball

    They require restaurants to show a letter grade prominent on the front window or door, but elevators have plaques that say, “Elevator information can be obtained at the office on floor XX” why not require letter grades for Elevators and require they be in the cars?

    • meho

      they do, they are supposed to show the inspection certificate in the car. Not that anyone ever takes the time to read it. Most people just run to catch the next available car and get to work. People TRUST these cars are safe and most times not all, they are. When proper procedure is followed.

  • Ellen

    I pray for this poor woman and her family. Was wondering if any of these repairmen are licensed or not. I have read where escalators have the same problems with people getting seriously hurt using them.

  • goblin

    I thought accidents like this never happen when you have Unionized elevator technicians on the job.

    • boraxo

      That’s because your head is in the fox news toilet, goblin.

  • Eileen

    Let’s pray for this dear woman’s family and her boyfriend.

  • TC

    SO SAD___RIP

  • Ronny O

    Completely agree with Frank.

  • Jean

    When elevators fail, they most fall due to failure in the brakes. I’ve rarely heard of an elevator going up on it’s own. I can’t imagine her terror as she realized what was about to happen. I also can’t imagine the grief the family must be feeling over losing such a young and promising loved one in such a horrific way. RIP

    • Meho

      actually Jean, It happens more times than one would think. The car on a roped(cable) elevator is always more prone to shoot upward rather than fall down. A falling elevator is something only seen in the movies. Should the car ever fall down, like you said, the brakes would activate. The cars in NYC do a full load brake test every five years. Meaning, the car is loaded with weights to posted capacity, the car car is then sent to a floor and must be within a like a half inch to floor level and observed for drift, if the car drifts, it means the brake on the drive has a problem or the counterweights are not proper and the car fails. It is then sent in the down direction and the over speed governor is tripped to activate the brakes and the car stops. It isn’t smooth or pleasant but it does stop. either way, it is so sad. I cant tell you how many times people get hurt or stuck. It happens many more times then it is reported.
      I wonder what company was maintaining this job.

      • Love NYC

        Thank you for an informative response. I have been stuck in elevators and have had doors close on me way too fast. NYC should make elevator safety a high priority. When you think of the number of people using elevators every day in all the buildings in this city, it should be a concern. Repairs seem to just be a quick fix to get them back in service with the least expense. This is a terrible tragedy.

        • meho

          argh, it is starting to sound like the elevator guy jumped out a safety circuit. I would really love to know what company had this contract.

  • Frank


    • steve

      Wow…1 accident and the whole agency is corrupt??

    • bullett

      The news media reported this morning that the Y&R building had racked up numerous code violations over the years, with some related to its elevator’s.
      I’m beginning to think that Frank is right with his assumption of graft in the building department. After all, look at what has happened with cranes, and collapsed buildings, over these past few years! Hey Mayor Mike, are you reading this stuff? Time to clean house!

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