A veteran fire apparatus operator (FOA) was killed in a horrific work accident
after he fell down an open elevator shaft while searching a burning building for survivors.
How Did This Work Accident Happen?
The 54-year-old victim was looking for people on the fifth floor of an apartment building when he became separated from the other members of his group. Visibility in the apartment building was limited to only a few feet due to the smoke density.
The elevators on each floor have outward-swinging doors with locking mechanisms that prevent them from opening before the elevator car reaches that floor. Firefighters ahead of the victim found that the locking mechanism was defective, allowing the doors to be opened easily. One fire fighter reportedly wrote “Do Not Enter. Open Shaft” with a permanent marker on the doors. However, investigators believe that the victim did not see the message, and walked into the open shaft thinking it was an apartment.
The FOA fell approximately 24 feet, and landed hard on the corner of an elevator car below. He became stuck in between the wall of the shaft and the car. After realizing the man had fallen and become stuck, rescuers spent the next 14 hours trying to free him. Unfortunately, the victim was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the local hospital.
Could the Elevator Accident Have Been Prevented?
Investigators say that a breakdown in communication is one of the primary reasons for the accident. Poor visibility and the malfunction lock on the elevator door also contributed to the fatal work accident. The victim’s life may have been saved if crew members and other parties had been more careful. For example, the fire team should have maintained constant contact with the victim. Allowing the FOA to fall behind in an immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) environment is unacceptable.
The owner/manager of the apartment building could also be at fault. The locking mechanism on the elevator doors should have been repaired. Also, the building had no sprinkler system in place to combat the fire.
When multiple failures lead to the unnecessary loss of life, those failures may represent negligence. Any or all of which could be the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a work accident, you will have enough to worry about. Let the Ohio work accident lawyers with Larrimer & Larrimer LLC handle the legal issues so that you have one less thing to worry about.