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Horrific Elevator Death Leaves Behind Father's Grief, Maintenance Questions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - On the day following a deadly elevator accident killed a young tech salesman, the victim's father is talking about his grief and calling out the building for what he says was the killing his son.

On Thursday, police cars and first responders flooded Third Avenue, moments after 30-year-old Samuel Charles Waisbren was crushed in an elevator, reports CBS2's Jessica Moore.

"Sam was, you know, a wonderful young man," said father Charles Waisbren.

The senior Waisbren says his heartbreak is almost more than he can bear.

"I'm just devastated in that he won't be able to have children, father a child and grow up and enjoy life," he said. "We're just, we're just devastated."

Sam Waisbren
Sam Waisbren (credit: Waisbren family)

Sam Waisbren was killed at his apartment building in Kips Bay. The Wisconsin native was on his way to work at a software company when the elevator suddenly dropped, crushing him as he was pinned between the elevator car and a wall.

"I knew they had problems in the elevator before but I didn't know it was going to be this serious," said pizzeria manager Mohamed Hammouda.

Building residents say they've had problems with building's elevators for months.

"Breaks down and they have to replace parts, that's been a continual problem with these elevators," said Steve Ukman.

Sam Weisbren himself had told his parents the elevators were problematic in his building, where he paid a monthly rent of $3,600 for a one-bedroom apartment.

The building at 344 Third Avenue has an open violation for an elevator issue dating back to May. It showed part of the elevator was tampered with, disabled and rendered inoperative.

Building managers were fined, but it appears the issue was never resolved - and now neighbors are livid.

"This is our home. It's scary to think that you're not safe in your home, so it's just tough," one neighbor said.

Thursday afternoon, the building's super refused to answer questions about the faulty elevators and even tried to stop CBS2 from interviewing residents.

Charles Waisbren says someone needs to get to the bottom of what happened, calling the building's negligence criminal.

"For them to actually kill my son, you know?" he said. "It was a disregard for elevator repair. You know, it's just... I'm just devastated by it."

"You know, you just don't know how you're going go, live any longer, how you can enjoy life," he said.

Elevator expert Patrick Carr said the elevator in question is modern and sophisticated with a trio of safety features to stop sudden moving when doors are open.

"Actually, where you're standing, there's three things. Behind here is a door detector, which is looking at your presence. It knows you're here," he said.

Carr says a gate switch along with an interlock switch should have prevented the tragic accident.

One scenario is a maintenance worker deliberately overriding fail safes during elevator work.

"It could be human failure, which we had in one case where the interlock and the gate switch circuit were intentionally bypassed. When that happens, yes, the accident could occur," Carr said.

The NYC Department of Buildings is investigating the malfunction.

City records show there have been 16 elevator violations in that building since 2003, but all had been dismissed.

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