Elevator death tempers mood for homecoming
Dorm posters and football helmet decals pay tribute to Andrew Polakowski.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio State University was ready to roar a little extra at homecoming Saturday, and why not, with the country's top-ranked football team and a student enrollment newly minted as the nation's largest.
Instead, the death of a freshman student in a dormitory elevator accident has tempered the campus mood and brought unwelcome attention to a school hoping to avoid bad publicity for a while.
"It's a big place where a lot of things happen, most of which are very positive and very good," said Curt Steiner, the university's vice president for university relations. "In a place of this size and scope, there are going to be some things that happen time to time that are sad and disappointing."
Andrew Polakowski, 18, of Erie, Pa., suffocated Oct. 20 trying to leave a Stradley Hall elevator stuck between floors. He was pinned between the top of the elevator doors and the third floor.
Fire officials said the elevator that killed Polakowski was crowded with 24 people, exceeding its 2,500-pound weight capacity by as much as 1,100 pounds.
After the accident, six elevators failed emergency brake tests in four high-rise dormitories, including both passenger elevators in Stradley Hall. Those are the only six that failed of the 41 elevators tested in all the university's high-rise dorms since the accident.
Records released by the university Thursday show 57 reports of trapped passengers in Stradley Hall and five other high-rise dorms on the university's south campus in the past year.
Freshman Leo Obasohan said students are still thinking about the accident but not ready to let it ruin the year.
"This homecoming will be better because it's in his memory," said Obasohan, 18, who lives in the dorm where the accident happened.
Newly posted warning signs inside the elevator reminded students not to overcrowd or exceed the weight limit and not to get out of a stalled elevator but call for help instead.
The university posted the signs after the accident, though they are not required by law.