A Bronx man pushed a woman to safety moments before he was crushed to death by an elevator that malfunctioned and trapped him between the car and the shaft on New Year's Eve, police said.
Stephen Hewett-Brown, 25, was exiting the elevator with other people at about 11:45 p.m. Thursday. They said "happy New Year" to Erude Sanchez as they got off.
As Sanchez was getting on, they noticed something was wrong. The elevator buckled and began to descend, investigators said.
In an instant, Brown pushed Sanchez out of the elevator just before it trapped him between the second and third floors.
He was suspended and gasping for air, witnesses said.
"He was crying, 'Help me! Help me,'" Emmanuel Coronado, Sanchez's son-in-law, said.
Coronado and other passengers tried to help Brown but the weight of the elevator was too much and they couldn't dislodge him.
"I tried to save him but I can't," Coronado said.
Brown's family said they were privately grieving and declined to speak, but the young man's social media pages suggest he was an aspiring recording artist.
The accident occurred at a high-rise apartment building at 131 Broome Street in Manhattan's lower east side.
The building has attracted 30 complaints about elevator service since 2010, according to city records. Two complaints in 2011 were for "dangerous condition/shaft open/unguarded." The other 28 complains were about defective or non-working elevators. There are no outstanding complaints.
Tenants are well aware of the elevator problems, like 10-year-old Janyesha Scott, who lives on the 17th floor.
"I was just on it and it dropped down to the 17th floor and I got scared," Scott said.
"You complain but it don't work, well you know, they say they're working on it and it takes time," tenant Diane Scott said.
The Buildings Department, which is investigating, says there are three open elevator complaints and the last time the elevators were inspected was last September. No violations were issued then.
Building management did not return calls or emails for comment.
As Brown's family grieves his tragic death, the family of the woman he saved is thankful he acted so heroically.
"I'm sorry something happened like that," Coronado said.