Officials Looking Into Possible Mechanical Failure, Human Error Or Vehicle Issue

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two people were injured Tuesday after a luxury SUV plunged 40 feet down an elevator shaft at a parking garage on the Upper East Side.

The incident happened around 9:45 a.m. at a garage on East 76th Street and First Avenue in a building that also houses a Hertz Rent-a-Car.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond On The Story

A parking attendant at the garage, Steven Morales, drove the 4,500-pound Lexus SUV into a vehicle elevator on the fifth floor, but the elevator’s car wasn’t there.

That’s when Morales and the SUV fell several stories to the ground floor and landed upside down on its roof, authorities said.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports

The vehicle that fell down the parking garage elevator shaft at 355 East 76 Street in Manhattan on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 (credit: FDNY/Twitter)

A second attendant, Angel Rosa, was inside the elevator on the ground floor at the time, according to FDNY Chief Thomas LaPolla. Rosa said he thought a bomb went off when the SUV came crashing down.

“I fell from the impact when the elevator came down,” Rosa told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

Rosa was helped out by other workers in the garage. Firefighters had to pull Morales from the car.

As attendant Rosa left the scene, he was stopped by a representative from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He was interviewed about what happened.

Investigators are looking at possible mechanical failure of the elevator doors, human error on the part of the attendant or an issue with the vehicle itself.

“It’s just a freak accident that occurred, these things happen. Could have been a gas pedal could have stuck or something to that affect, because these guys are professionals, they know what they’re doing when they get up there. It’s not a game with them,” said Fred Alston, President of the Garage Attendants Union.

The wreckage of the vehicle that plunged down an elevator shaft on July 17, 2012. (credit: Tony Aiello/CBS 2)

Both men were taken to New York Presbyterian-Cornell University Medical Center. Their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

The Lexus SUV was yanked out of the elevator shaft and loaded onto a flatbed before being taken to a junkyard.

The Department of Buildings is also investigating. So far it appears the elevator at the GMC garage had no violations on record.

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