By Denise Dick
An elevator accident at YSU has ‘traumatized’ a student and has officials searching for causes
By DENISE DICK
Tests took place Monday to determine the safety of a residence-hall elevator that gave way Friday, injuring several Youngstown State University students, including one who vows never to ride it again.
Katia Middlebrooks, a freshman from Toledo, was one of the students on the Kilcawley House elevator when it fell.
“We were on the second floor, and we went to the fourth, and that’s when everyone came on to the elevator. And the elevator, it like wasn’t moving, and then we pushed the button and then it was coming down,” she said. “We didn’t know it was coming down until it hit the basement.”
She suffered a sprained knee and says she’s on medicine while it heals. Middlebrooks said she won’t ride the elevator again.
“I’m terrified,” Middlebrooks said. “I’m traumatized.”
It is an Otis Elevator cab, but the elevator is maintained by ThyssenKrupp Elevator, said Ron Cole, a YSU spokesman.
Representatives from ThyssenKrupp were investigating at the scene Monday, weight testing the elevator, he said. A call to ThyssenKrupp, which has an office in Cleveland, wasn’t returned late Monday afternoon.
A dolly stacked with weights rested outside of the elevator on the main floor of the residence hall Monday afternoon.
Thirteen students were on an elevator inside Kilcawley House at Youngstown State University when it dropped to the basement about 6:30 p.m. Friday night.
The elevator was occupied by several people Friday evening when it stopped at the first and fourth floors to pick up more passengers, a report from YSU police said. The elevator then went up as if it were going to the seventh floor “when suddenly it dropped to the basement,” the report said.
The elevator car capacity is 2,500 pounds, and the report lists 13 students who were on it at the time. It does not list the students’ weights but says “the incident may have occurred due to the car being overloaded.”
When it stopped, the car was about 10.5 inches below the stopping point, the police report said.
City firefighters and Rural Metro units also responded, and the fire department turned off the power to the elevator so EMS personnel could help those who were injured.
Seven of the elevator passengers were treated at St. Elizabeth Health Center and two others were treated at Forum Health North Side Medical Center.
Cole said that the elevator is equipped with a braking system that prevented a free fall of the car, allowing it to drop in a “controlled descent.”
Springs at the bottom of the shaft also are a safety measure, he said.
The elevator has been inoperable since the accident, causing students to take the stairs in the seven-story building.
A student who was not on the elevator, but said she notified authorities about the accident, told The Vindicator over the weekend that the students were in the elevator for 30 minutes waiting for help.
But Cole said the official university police log shows that the elevator failed at 6:28 p.m., and police were on the scene by 6:31 p.m.
Staff from the university’s residence life department plan to meet with students about the incident as well as to review elevator safety, he said.
In their statements to police, others who were on the elevator discussed how the elevator started to go up before dropping to the basement.
Rebekah Owen, 18, of Salem, wrote in her statement that she got on the elevator from the fourth floor, and there were “a lot of people in it.”
Owen wrote that she isn’t sure if someone hit the emergency button, but a voice came on and asked what the emergency was. The students answered that there wasn’t one.
“When we hit the button for our floor, it was taking forever for the doors to close,” she wrote. “Finally after we kept hitting the button it started to go up first; then suddenly, we could feel it going down.”
Owen wrote that the elevator hit and then bounced, and the students called for help.
Joseph Bass, 18, of Monesson, Pa., said in his statement that he got on the elevator at the first floor, heading upstairs.
“Elevator seemed overcrowded,” he wrote. “Got to the fourth floor, lights dimmed, and before I knew it, elevator crashed down to the basement.”