A 38-year-old university lecturer was crushed to death by an elevator in her building when she overloaded it with a heavy package that caused it to suddenly start moving, neighbours on the scene say.
Boston university lecturer Carrie O’Connor was taking her belongings along to her new apartment in a 1920’s building after she had moved in on September 12.
A neighbour helped the 38-year-old up the stairs with a box when it was initially believed the elevator acted faultily.
According to reports, the elevator in the building usually worked via a two-door system that means the second door needs to be firmly shut before it can move. However, it is believed the weight of O’Connor belongings triggered a sensor.
Leanne Scorzoni, a tenant in the building, told the Boston Globe: “I heard it, he saw everything. He was helping her with a box into the building and he was going up the stairs, and he told her ‘hey, just be careful because it’s an old-fashioned elevator’.”
The tenant said that she spoke to the man who had been helping O’Connor with her belongings just seconds before the elevator suddenly dropped. She said it was “horrifying” to witness.
More details: police say a woman believed to be in her late 30s was found in an elevator on the first floor of this apartment building on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. She died on scene in what is believed to be an elevator accident. #WBZ pic.twitter.com/pUAVsgUJoS
— Kristina Rex (@KristinaRex) September 14, 2020
She said: “I don’t know what type of elevator it is, but you have to pull the door across and then step in and then press the button.”
Scorzoni then added that she had been informed of the elevator having a sensor. At the time, the man who had been helping O’Connor believed that the package triggered the sensor and caused it to start moving.
The tenant told the Boston Globe that there was a staircase beside the elevator and as O’Connor walked towards the elevator, the man was talking as he started to head up the stairs.
She told the publication: “He just said ‘oh, I don’t think that’s gonna fit in there’. And then she’s like ‘oh, I’ll try it one more time’. And then I heard her screaming, and I heard him screaming.”
When the tenant emerged from her apartment on the first floor, she said the man was screaming and pointing.
She said: “When I looked at the elevator, it was not there. Only the ceiling of the car was on my floor, so all the cables were there.”
The tenant didn’t know O’Connor but said that she was aware that the university lecturer had only recently moved into the building.
Scorzoni wasn’t the only one to hear the screaming. Other residents in the building reported hearing the sound of O’Connor in the tragic accident.
One unidentified witness told Boston 25 News how she “heard an ungodly scream”.
They said: “We ran into the hallway and saw a gentleman who was in distress screaming and hyperventilating and saying she’s dead, she’s dead.”
For around 90 minutes, the building’s residents weren’t allowed onto the site as police worked on the scene. They were informed that the elevator was stuck between the first floor and the basement.
CBS was informed by Eric Carmichael that his wife had been on the first floor when the accident occurred.
According to his wife, it all happened so fast that there was nothing she or anyone else could do to save her.
He told the news station: “The lady was trying to put her package into the elevator, like that’s how we do it. Take it from the lobby.”
He added: “I guess maybe the package and the woman were over the limit of what the elevator could handle so then what my wife said she saw was the lady’s arms like hanging onto her package.”
After a thorough investigation, it was concluded that a maintenance person in the basement pressed the call button – which was connected to the elevator – this signalled to it to be sent down as soon as the interior gate was closed, according to the report.
The package O’Connor was carrying then bumped the car gate switch, as shown in footage, and it was mistakenly indicated that the door had been closed. Therefore, the elevator began to drop with the interior gate still open.
Carmichael described the accident as “terrifying” and said that it was worrying to think that it could have been any one of the residents in the elevator when it happened.
He commented: “Terrible old elevator that should have been probably kept up better.”
According to the management of the building, the elevator had been inspected within the past year.
Boston’s Inspectional Service Department reportedly told WCBV that the elevator was overseen by the state.
Based on tax records, the building itself dates back to the 1920s. Yet it’s not clear when the elevator itself was installed.
A spokesperson from the state’s Division of Professional Licensure said officials from the Office of Public Safety and Inspection said in a statement that the elevator had recently been inspected and was certified in accordance with state regulations.
The statement continued: “The department extends its deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the victim during this difficult time.”
Boston police sergeant Detective John Boyle confirmed that O’Connor was found dead at the scene and her cause of death was revealed to be traumatic asphyxia and the manner being accidental.
On Boston University’s website, O’Connor’s biography states that she had taught “a wide range of courses throughout her career, including French language, French for Business, Conversational French, French literature in translation, and French culture through gastronomy”.
Previously, she had taught at Bentley University, Louisiana State University, MIT, Northeastern University, and Tufts University.