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Family Sues After Woman Gets Trapped In Queens Burger King Restroom, Dies

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Queens woman died after allegedly getting trapped in a local Burger King restroom, and now, her family has sued the fast food chain.

As CBS2's Ilana Gold reported, Shirley McCarthy's family has also detailed what happened during her final moments at the Burger King on 82nd Street in Jackson Heights.

The incident happened on Sept. 27. McCarthy's boyfriend, Ricardo Knox, still struggles to cope.

"I wake up every morning and it feels like I'm in a dream," Knox said. "Shirley didn't deserve to die in that bathroom. She wanted to live like everybody else. God bless her soul."

Knox said McCarthy, 47, didn't feel well, so she went into the single-stall restroom and locked the door. Moments later, she had the symptoms of a seizure and fell on the bathroom floor.

McCarthy could not reach the door handle, so she started screaming for help.

"I pulled the handle," Knox said. "The handle broke off in my hand."

Knox said the lock could only be accessed from the inside of the restroom. He said he did whatever he could to try to pry the door open, but nothing worked.

When firefighters arrived, they had to use an axe to smash open the door and get the mother of four to the hospital, Knox said.

"If I would have gotten to the door when I heard her and I opened the door, she would have been standing here today," Knox said.

McCarthy's sons said doctors claimed she had brain damage from a prolonged lack of oxygen.

"I'm standing here because I'm still in shock," said Kareem McCarthy. "Sometimes I lay in bed and call her phone up to hear her voicemail to hear her voice."

The family's attorney on Thursday was filing a wrongful-death lawsuit against Burger King on their behalf. Attorney Michael S. Lamonsoff said the lock on the door, which has since been updated and replaced, was antiquated.

"What happens if there's a fire; if someone's giving birth -- they can't get to that lock?" Lamonsoff said. "To me, it's stupid."

The victim's loved ones hope taking the legal action will prevent such an incident from happening to someone else. The attorney for the victim's family tells said the case will go in front of a jury in the next two to three years.

CBS2 reached out to Burger King for a response, but the fast food chain said it cannot comment.

CBS2 also checked with the New York City Department of Buildings, and a representative said there is nothing in the city building code that prohibits a lock like the one at the Jackson Heights Burger King.

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