An elevator safety expert told the New York Post that the horrific elevator accident that killed a 30-year-old man Thursday morning in Manhattan, crushing him between the elevator car and shaft wall, “smacked of human error.”

The accident occurred at the Manhattan Promenade, a 23-story luxury apartment building at 344 Third Ave. near East 26th Street in the Kips Bay neighborhood. Surveillance video published by the New York Post shows a woman waiting in the lobby by the elevator. The door opens and one man safely exits, but then the car suddenly drops as resident Sam Waisbren, 30, is on the threshold. He instinctively tries to grab the floor but disappears as the car drops to the basement level and others look on in horror.

Mr. Waisbren, a software salesman originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was pronounced dead at the scene by the city medical examiner. Five others who remained inside the car when it dropped to the basement were later rescued by the FDNY.

Kevin Doherty, an elevator safety consultant told the New York Post that the odds of Thursday’s grisly accident happening by mechanical and electrical failures alone are “almost incalculable.” Mr. Doherty investigated a similar 2011 accident that killed ad exec Suzanne Hart in a Midtown office building, among several others.

He said that controllers and computers are designed to prevent the lift from moving when either the inner or outer door is open. In order for an accident like the one that killed Mr. Waisbren to occur, “you would have to have a number of mechanical and electrical failures occur simultaneously, barring human intervention.”

Mr. Doherty told the New York Post that similar accidents he has investigated have involved “somebody manipulating the elevator safety circuit in the elevator machine room” to troubleshoot an elevator malfunction.

New York City’s Department of Building (DOB) is investigating the accident. Manhattan Promenade residents told the New York Post that the lift had been taken out of service the day before the deadly accident because it kept getting stuck. They also said the elevator jumps between floors, among other problems.

DOB records show that another lift in the building was taken out of service on May 29 to address a safety issue with the door zone restrictor. The elevator reopened on May 31 after satisfying DOB inspectors.

Mr. Waisbren’s father says the family is devastated by the accident.

“He was a wonderful young man,” Charles Waisbren told the New York Post. He said his son had moved from the Milwaukee area to settle down in New York City. “He had millions of friends out in New York. He was loved by everybody.”

“The elevator was always in disarray, and they’re paying a gazillion dollars in rent every month,” he added. “[The] least the building could do is provide safety.”

Other sources: Righting Injustice

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