A Boston University lecturer’s horrific death in an apartment building elevator shaft last month was the result of terribly bad luck, according to a Massachusetts Office of Public Safety and Inspections report.
The report, released this week and obtained by local news organizations, included analysis of video footage reviewed by the office.
Carrie O’Connor, 38, was positioning an approximately 80-pound box inside the old-fashioned “birdcage” elevator in her apartment complex when the box accidentally hit buttons at least twice, allowing it to move down the shaft.
That, combined with someone from maintenance calling the elevator from the bottom floor, caused the car to begin moving without the metal gate being pulled closed. In addition, the report said the “emergency stop switch was not labeled at the time of the accident,” but that there was no mechanical problem with the 60-year-old elevator.
On the university website, O’Connor was described as a French lecturer in the school’s Romance Studies Department.
The box, measuring 12 by 6 inches by 7.5 feet long, carried written instructions saying that more than one person was required to lift it, according to the report. According to a female neighbor in the building, a male neighbor had helped O’Connor get the box through the building’s entrance and was headed up the nearby stairs while she was trying to maneuver the box into the elevator. With his back to her, he said that he didn’t think the box would fit inside the elevator and asked her to be careful, because “it’s an old-fashioned elevator.” He heard her say she would try one more time, and then he heard her scream.
The video analyzed for the report indicated that O’Connor was crushed when she apparently fell out of the car and was trapped along the sidewall as the elevator descended. She disappeared from view on the footage, indicating “that she had fallen backwards into the hoistway between the first floor and basement floor,” the report said.
O’Connor died of “traumatic asphyxiation,” an autopsy said.
According to Boston 25 News, a local TV affiliate, tax records show that the building dates back to 1920, had recently been inspected and was certified.