The mother fell on top of her baby several feet below
The elevator was out of service but it's unclear if signs were posted
The Brooklyn building has had numerous elevator violations
A six-week-old girl died Thursday morning after falling with her mother down an elevator shaft in a Brooklyn, New York, apartment building, according to police.
“I heard the lady screaming,” Hopeton Stewart, a building tenant, told CNN affiliate WABC. “I heard her crying and screaming.”
According to NYPD detective Ahmed Nasser, 21-year-old Aber Al-Rabahi attempted to push her child’s stroller into the elevator, which was out of service, on the 23rd floor. It is unknown if there was an out-of-service note on it.
But the elevator wasn’t there, and instead Al-Rabahi and her daughter, Areej Ali, fell onto the roof of the elevator approximately 5 feet below, with the mother landing on top of the child and causing injuries, Nasser told CNN.
The elevator then dropped even further to the 17th floor, where they were taken out by an elevator mechanic.
A police statement says officers at the scene found the baby girl unconscious and unresponsive. She was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital, where her mother was treated and released. The medical examiner has not yet determined the cause of death and the investigation is ongoing.
In an interview with CNN affiliates WABC and NY1, Salah Ali, the baby’s grandfather, said he is heartbroken and that his daughter is in “bad shape.”
Elevator safety violations
The Brooklyn apartment complex has faced multiple complaints in the past, with more than 120 elevator violations since 2005 and hundreds of inspections, New York Department of Buildings records show.
“I’m not very surprised – there have been a lot of problems with the elevators. People get stuck in them all the time,” a building resident, who gave her name as Diana, told NY1. Another resident who was not identified by NY1 recalled he got stuck in an elevator during the first month of his move into the complex.
“It’s heartbreaking, honestly,” he told NY1 about the incident. “I don’t know how to react to something like that.”
According to the city’s buildings department, there are 10 elevators in the multi-building complex, which was built in 1974.
The elevator involved in the incident was inspected in early August 2016, and one non-hazardous violation was issued regarding an inoperative phone in the elevator car. The building inspectors determined that the elevator could safely remain in operation.
The service company for the building’s elevators is Centennial Elevator Industries, a member of the Elevator Industries Association, according to Michael Halpin of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local One.
The IUEC is promoting the Elevator Safety Act – state legislation that would set minimum training standards for elevator mechanics in New York – a bill Halpin said Elevator Industries Association opposes.
“They don’t want to provide the level of training and education the bill requires,” Halpin said.
While not referring specifically to Thursday’s incident in Brooklyn, Halpin said mandatory training for elevator mechanics could help prevent such incidents.
Centennial Elevator Industries declined to comment. The Elevator Industries Association did not respond to CNN’s inquiries.
Jordan Isenstadt, a consultant for Starrett Corp., which owns the property, confirmed Centennial Elevator Industries is the building’s service company.
Starrett released a statement expressing sadness over the tragic incident, which, according to the statement, “involved an elevator under repair at the Bay Park Two Complex.”
The company said the incident is “now under active investigation and we are cooperating fully with all authorities and agencies to determine the facts surrounding the event. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families involved and management is making arrangements to offer grief counseling upon request,” the statement said.
The elevator unit involved is now under a cease-use order.
“Our inspectors will remain on scene to conduct a full investigation into this tragic accident,” said Andrew Rudansky, a spokesperson for the buildings department. “We will be testing all of the elevators in the complex to ensure they are operating safely.”