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YSU elevator accident triggers probe

Published: Sun, September 12, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.

Questions raised on response time at YSU




A freshman resident of Youngstown State University’s Kilcawley House said she tried in vain for 30 minutes to get help for her roommate and 11 other YSU students after an overloaded elevator fell about five floors into the dormitory’s basement Friday evening.

“I heard the snap, and I heard the crash,” Brandi Juncewicz said of the 6:30 p.m. accident. “I could hear them crying and screaming for help.”

Juncewicz was on the third floor when she heard the elevator fall. She went to the first floor to tell two employees at the front desk what happened, but they apparently thought she was kidding, Juncewicz said.

“I said ‘No, I’m completely serious,’” Juncewicz said.

She made it to the basement at about the same time that a YSU security guard got there — around 30 minutes later, she said. She didn’t have a key to get into the basement on her own, Juncewicz said.

“My roommate said it felt like three hours. She couldn’t believe it took so long,” said Juncewicz, a criminal-justice major from Marysville.

Ron Cole, a YSU spokesman, said the response time from the YSU Police Department to the first call it received was two minutes. Cole said he doesn’t know whether there was a delay in calling YSU police.

Cole said the preliminary investigation indicates the elevator didn’t free-fall because two braking systems were engaged, “which significantly decreased the speed of the drop.”

He added, “Thankfully, they slowed down the elevator to the point where we didn’t have any serious injuries.”

Cole said all 10 students who went to St. Elizabeth Health Center for treatment were released the same evening.

Capt. Ron Russo of the Youngstown Fire Department, which responded to the accident, said the elevator was overloaded with students.

Juncewicz said she believes there were 12 students in the elevator car, which has about five to six square feet.

“I said it was kind of their fault,” Juncewicz said she told her roommate of overloading the elevator. She believes the students were going somewhere to eat together, but she doesn’t believe the students would have tried to damage the elevator on purpose.

“People don’t jump in the elevator. They know it’s old,” she said.

Juncewicz’ roommate told her the elevator was on its way up from the fourth floor when it “lurched,” then went half-way up to the fifth floor. The lights in the elevator flickered, smoke came through the vents and then the elevator went down, she said.

When Juncewicz got to the basement, she said one girl was still on the floor of the elevator car, unable to get up. Others had sprained ankles and pulled muscles, Juncewicz said.

She added that the Kilcawley House elevator has not worked very well since she began living there in recent weeks.

“It lurched on me a week ago,” she said, adding that another student who lived there last year told her the elevator “routinely stuck” last year.

Dr. Cynthia Anderson, YSU president, said the Otis Elevator Co. came to investigate the accident Friday and continued its work on Saturday.

Cole said the elevator is shut down, and the state elevator inspector will arrive Monday to determine what caused the accident and what needs to be done to repair it.

He added that the elevator was recently inspected and it had no history of “problems out of the ordinary.”

Contrary to comments he’s heard, there is no indication that the elevator ever fell like this before, Cole said.

The YSU Police Department said Saturday that the police report on the accident was not complete and won’t be available to the public until Monday.

A call to the public relations department for Otis Elevator Co. Saturday was not returned.

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