Elevator accident kills woman in Manhattan; such events are rare

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Few people think about it, but they're taking a risk -- albeit a slight one -- when they step into an elevator, according to a variety of statistics.

On Wednesday, police said, a woman was killed in a Manhattan office building when she entered an elevator and was pinned between the elevator and the wall of the shaft as the elevator suddenly rose.  The accident follows an elevator-related death of a woman earlier this month in California.

Citing federal government statistics, ConsumerWatch.com, a database that monitors news about product safety issues, says elevator accidents kill about 27 people each year in the U.S. It points out that there are an estimated 900,000 elevators, each serving an average of 20,000 people per year. Collectively, U.S. elevators make 18 billion passenger trips per year, according to the website.

About 10,200 injuries are reported, with the “majority of these accidents being related to elevator door malfunction, carriage misalignment with floors, and passenger safety vulnerabilities,” the site said.

Comparisons to other activities can be difficult because the units of measurement differ widely, but the federal government reports 1.14 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles on roads in 2009. By comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 59 fatalities among workers in the dangerous logging industry in 2010.

According to New York police, the 41-year-old woman stepped into an elevator at 285 Madison Ave. at about 10 a.m. The elevator rose suddenly and the woman was trapped between the wall and the elevator, which was stopped between the first and second floors.

Two other people on the elevator were taken to a hospital and treated for trauma, police said.

In California earlier this month, Annette Lujan, 48, of Huntington Beach was riding an elevator in the Cal State Long Beach Foundation building when it apparently became stuck between the second and third floor.

Lujan climbed out of the elevator, but the car started moving again, Capt. Rich Brandt of the Long Beach Fire Department told the Daily 49er student newspaper.

The car dropped, crushing her.

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-- Tina Susman in New York and Michael Muskal in Los Angeles

Photo: Emergency personnel gather outside the site of a fatal elevator accident in Manhattan. A woman was killed when she was pinned between the elevator and the wall of the shaft, officials said. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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