Buildings Dept.: Freight Elevator Not Designed For Passengers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Nearly two dozen men were injured in an elevator accident Wednesday morning in Chelsea.

It happened around 7 a.m. at the Bed, Bath and Beyond on 6th Avenue near 18th Street.

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Authorities said a freight elevator dropped three floors to the ground when cables supporting the elevator snapped.

“It was, you know, a free-fall from Great Adventure to be honest. If you ever go on that ride that’s what it was. We didn’t know when it was gonna stop,” said “Paul,” who was in the elevator but didn’t want to give his full name. “People got hurt. It was a hard landing.”

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According to several reports, the Buildings Department found that the freight elevator was being used as a passenger elevator and its brake was defective, causing it to malfunction.

“I braced on anything I could find, a wall or something because I knew we were gonna hit sooner or later,” Paul said.

“I held on. I had somebody holding onto me, grabbing on for his life, bringing me down with him so when you hit the bottom you jumped up a little bit, took a look around to see what’s happening,” another victim said.

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“The brake was sort of holding a little. If that brake wasn’t on it would’ve been a much worse situation.”

City officials ordered the elevator immediately out of service.

Twenty-two of the workers were taken to Bellevue and Beth Israel Hospitals. Nine men complained of neck and back pain. One person was not hospitalized.

“Those are the most serious injuries — the neck and back pains. The rest are people complaining of knee pain, arm pain and other minor injuries, nothing serious,” FDNY Deputy Chief Jackie Sullivan told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.

“It felt like we were jumping,” a victim said.

The Buildings Department will inspect the elevator and try to figure out what caused it to fall.

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Back in April, 28 passengers in an elevator had the opposite problem as it got stuck and firefighters had to come to their rescue. The whole incident was caught on tape.