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NYC probes for answers in freak elevator death

NEW YORK - City buildings officials are investigating what could have caused an elevator to fail Wednesday, killing a woman as she was stepping inside, CBS News station WCBS-TV in New York reports.

Officials will be focusing their attention on the mechanics of the now-boarded-up elevator inside the lobby of the Young & Rubicam building on Madison Avenue.

Woman killed in freak NYC elevator accident

Authorities said that at around 10 a.m. Wednesday 41-year-old Suzanne Hart was stepping inside the elevator when it suddenly shot upward, its doors still open.

Buildings department sources told WCBS-TV that she fell forward and was crushed between the rising elevator and the wall above.

"We saw people running out of the building, everyone screaming, 'Call the cops,'" witness John Hanna said.

Emergency officials removed Hart's body at around 7 p.m., almost 10 hours after the accident.

Her father, Alex Hart, who lives in Florida, arrived at his daughter's Brooklyn home around the same time.

"She was a beautiful person," said Hart's boyfriend Chris Dickson. "I don't have words, don't have words for this. I loved her."

Hart was known as both an engaging, hard-working executive and a friendly neighbor.

"I feel horrible about it," said neighbor Kristi Molinaro. "She was a really nice woman, and I'm in shock."

"It's very scary actually and to think that the elevator just slammed on her like that and she was caught," neighbor Diane Kepple said.

A Department of Buildings spokesman was unaware of any recent service problems with the elevator.

It is unclear if a sensor failed, allowing the elevator to keep moving even though Hart was not completely inside.

A spokesman said the elevator was last inspected in June, and there were no safety violations. The other 12 elevators in the building are still in service.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said he is deeply troubled by the accident.

"I'm very concerned that over a 12-month period, this building received unsatisfactory four times on inspections to their elevators," he said.

For years, Stringer has been calling for more information about elevators to be posted.

"So right now, the inspection was an unsatisfactory, but was it for a missing light bulb in the elevator or was there real structural damage that perhaps could have caused this horrific accident?" Stringer asked.

There are 60,000 elevators in operation in New York City and deadly accidents like Wednesday's are rare.

Last year, they happened in a fraction of 1 percent of the time.

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