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Midtown Building Remains Closed Following Fatal Elevator Accident

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Four days after a woman was crushed as she was stepping onto an elevator in a Midtown building, the location remains closed.

Suzanne Hart, 41, died inside the lobby of the Young & Rubicam building at 285 Madison Ave. around 10 a.m. on December 14. Authorities said she was stepping inside the elevator when it suddenly shot upward with its doors still open.

Building department sources told CBS 2 she fell forward and was crushed between the rising elevator and the wall above.

Emergency officials were finally able to remove Hart's body at around 7 p.m. Wednesday, almost 10 hours after the accident.

Young & Rubicam released a statement Sunday, saying that the building was still closed and that they "made the decision to keep our people in temporary locations for the rest of the week."

The Department of Buildings said technicians were doing electrical maintenance on the elevator hours before the tragedy. Transel Elevator Inc. is under investigation.

"Workers from Transel were performing electrical maintenance work on the elevator involved in the accident hours before it malfunctioned. This work has now become the focus of our investigation," Department of Buildings Spokesperson Tony Sclafani told 1010 WINS on Thursday.

New York elevator expert Patrick Carrajat is familiar with the kind of freak accident that killed Hart. He told CBS 2's Dave Carlin that the biggest mystery is why major safeguards, sensors and switches with the elevator failed all at once.

"The most common one I've seen has been human error. Basically an elevator technician working on the elevator not aware the elevator is in passenger service, allows the elevator to move with circuits disabled," Carrajat said.

Carrajat also bemoaned the fact that inspections do not happen as often as they probably should.

"The code requires five inspections every two years. We're getting one a year on average," Carrajat said.

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

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

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

There are 60,000 elevators in operation in New York City and deadly accidents like Wednesday's are rare. Last year, they happened less than 1 percent of the time.

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