285 Madison Remains Closed for the Week Following Elevator Accident that Killed Suzanne Hart


Following up on the awful elevator incident yesterday at 285 Madison that caused the tragic death of Suzanne Hart, director of new business at Young & Rubicam, the daily papers share portraits of her life and what she had accomplished in her 41 years, as well as a further look into what actually happened. As for what happened: As we explained yesterday, what was initially reported as an elevator “fall” was not a fall at all — Hart was getting on the elevator on the ground floor of the building when, the Post reports, “suddenly it shot upward like a bullet” with the doors still open and two other passengers, a man and woman, inside. The reports are upsetting.

Hart fell forward into the car, part of her body inside and part still outside the entryway, said authorities. The elevator — its doors still open — then got stuck between the building’s first and second floors.

Building workers who saw the accident desperately tried to rescue Hart.

Inside the elevator, the man and woman stuck with Hart were forced to look on in horror as she died just inches away — a scene so harrowing that both were left “in severe distress,” said Fire Lt. Glenn Berube, one of the first rescuers on the scene.

(Both witnesses were hospitalized for trauma.) DNAinfo reports that Hart’s foot may have been caught in the gap between the elevator and the lobby floor, and NYPD spokesman Paul Browne says her clothes may have also been caught, “the closing doors in the elevator lifted her with it.”

There had been violations related to the building’s 13 elevators — 56 in the past 11 years — and the elevator had reportedly been taken out of service in 2003. Most of the violations had apparently been cleared up, but inspectors in June found administrative violations which are still listed in DOB records. Still, these violations, said to be “non-hazardous,” don’t account for what happened yesterday, a matter that’s still under investigation.

The Times reports:

Chad Kawalec, a former director of client services at Y&R and friend of Ms. Hart’s, described the elevators in the 85-year-old building as creaky and balky.

“They weren’t the kind of elevators that you stuck your hand in to catch the doors,” he said, “Because they wouldn’t stop.”

Hart had a boyfriend, Chris Dicksen, with whom she lived in Brooklyn Heights, and the papers report she was well-liked by everyone and a “crazy hard worker.” Her father, Alex Hart, told the Times, “She was the most marvelous daughter imaginable. No father could have ever been more proud of her.” She’d grown up in California and gone to Knox College in Illinois; in her spare time, she’d just finished a course at the Bronx’s New York Botanical Garden.

The day before she died, Suzanne had lunched with Young & Rubicam’s Global CEO, David Sable. He sent a memo to staff that included the following:

Suzanne was, in fact, beloved by everyone who knew her. And we will, at the right time, all have a chance to memorialize her as she deserves.

We know that this is a horrible, unthinkable piece of news to absorb. There are counselors on their way to the building and we will have them in the building throughout the week.

Tony Sclafani, spokesman for the Department of Buildings, said that last year, “there were 53 elevator accidents in a city of 60,000 elevators.” Three of them were fatal.

285 Madison was evacuated yesterday after the accident. DNAinfo reports that the building will remain closed for the rest of the week, with employees working off-site, as investigators try to determine what went wrong.

Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that the elevator that killed Hart “had been worked on by maintenance personnel hours before the fatal accident.” The elevator-servicing company, Transel Elevator Inc., and its electrical work, is now the focus of the investigation. Investigators are seeking to identify other clients serviced by Transel and to inspect their elevators.

Previously: 285 Madison Elevator Accident Results in Injuries to Three, One Reported Dead [Updated]