Corporate memos going back to at least 1943 highlighted a hazard that could be solved with a $100 space guard, but although the elevator industry has known for more than 70 years that children caught between the doors had been killed and injured before, American families are still grieving the loss of youngsters crushed by moving elevators.
Lawsuits filed on behalf of dead and injured children since 2001 further spelled out the risk. In 2005, several elevator experts tried to change the nation’s elevator safety code to shrink the door gap — and were rejected.
The child pictured above is Jacob Helvey, 11, of Alpharetta, Ga, who is unable to walk or talk after being severely injured in a home elevator accident in 2010.
Weston Scott Androw was a 7-year-old boy who died on July 11 after he became trapped between an elevator car and the elevator shaft inside a vacation rental home in a North Carolina.
Fletcher Hartz was 2½-years old when he was killed in a home elevator accident in 2017. The toddler got trapped behind the door to the elevator, which had been installed to accommodate his elderly grandparents at the two-story home in Little Rock.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) filed a lawsuit against an elevator company whose devices resulted in one child dying, another child being permanently disabled, and a third child being hospitalized after becoming trapped.
After more accidents, the elevator code finally changed in 2017, but it applied only to new installations.
Nothing was done to fix hundreds of thousands of existing elevators, even though the problem could be solved with a $100 space guard, according to elevator experts.
Children rarely live when their tiny bodies collided with the door frame above or fell into the elevator shaft below — and those who survive are often permanently disabled — the danger has been allowed to exist all these years by companies and regulators despite broad awareness about the danger coupled with an incredibly simple solution.
According to interviews with 28 officials, parents and regulators, plus a review of hundreds of documents from courts, companies and government agencies, home elevators have killed and injured kids for decades but safety regulators won’t order a simple fix.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission said were linked to 4,600 injuries and 22 deaths from 1981 through 2019.
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