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Residents Say Elevator In Deadly LES Accident Has Been A Problem For Years

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A 25-year-old man is being called a hero after he died while helping a woman escape from a falling elevator on the Lower East Side.

The 26 story building is operated by Wavecrest Management, as CBS2's Brian Conybeare reported, they were not talking about the horrifying accident on Friday, but residents were.

"They've been working on it. They've been shutting it off for weeks, months, and then this tragedy happened," one resident said.

Anibal Prieto choked back tears as he discussed the horrific New Year's Eve accident.

"It's sad you know, that something like this had to happen on New Years. The family being destroyed right now over this stupid nonsense. All you had to do is get the right people to fix it," he said.

Prieto and other residents said the elevator has caused problems for years and the Department of Buildings has issued at least three citations.

The man, identified as Stephen Hewett-Brown of the Bronx, got stuck in the elevator on the third floor at a building on Broome Street just before midnight, police said.

He was crushed by the elevator after he pushed a woman to safety when the car began to fall, 1010 WINS' Samantha Liebman reported.

A witness told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez that he will forever be haunted by Brown's final words.

"I don't breathe no more. I cannot breather no more. i need you to take me out from here," Emmanuel Coronado recalled.

Coronado said he tried desperately to save the 25-year-old as he was slowly being crushed to death by an elevator.

"I tried to put the elevator up to take him out, and the elevator have so much weight on it," he said.

Brown was leaning halfway off the elevator when it suddenly gave way, crushing him at the hip. His body was carrying the weight of the car and eight passengers still on board.

Alex from the Bronx knew the victim and described what happened.

"Basically there was a woman in the elevator and her son. The elevator started falling really, really slow," she said. "They stepped out and he stepped out and when he stepped out, the elevator just came down and it just crushed him."

Stephen Hewett-Brown
Stephen Hewett-Brown (Credit: Google Plus)

Coronado told the Daily News that Hewett-Brown "said 'Happy New Year' and pushed her out.''

Witnesses said they called 911 right away, but that it took nearly 30 minutes for any emergency responders to arrive, despite the fact that the 7th Precinct station house and a firehouse are directly across the street.

The FDNY and NYPD said the 911 cal was received at 11:54 p.m. with crews arriving within 5 minutes at 11:59.

When police arrived, they found him unconscious and unresponsive with severe body trauma. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

One resident named Alberto said there have been issues in the past with the elevator.

"We always get stuck," he said. "It just gets stuck or the door doesn't want to open."

Another woman who has lived in the building for 30 years said the elevators are notorious for problems.

"Especially that particular elevator has been out of service for the last couple of weeks, like on and off, and it was taking people on joy rides," she told WCBS 880's Kelly Waldron.

The investigation is ongoing.

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