New York

NYC Buildings Department Finds Cause of Broken Elevator That Trapped Housekeeper for 3 Days

The 53-year-old housekeeper was trapped inside the broken elevator for three days while the family was away

What to Know

  • The DOB says the elevator in the luxury Manhattan townhouse in which a woman was trapped for three days had a burned-out hoist motor
  • The elevator had gotten stuck between floors, and the emergency phone in the elevator didn't work. The housekeeper was rescued Monday
  • The owner is facing a slew of violations and fines; a cease-use order was also issued for the elevator

The city buildings department has determined what caused an elevator inside an Upper East Side luxury townhouse to get stuck last week, trapping a housekeeper inside for three days.

A preliminary investigation by the Department of Buildings determined that the elevator hoist motor had burned out and failed, causing the elevator to become stuck between two floors, according to DOB spokesman Andrew Rudansky. 

There was an emergency phone in the elevator, but it wasn't working when inspectors examined it Wednesday, Rudansky said. 

The DOB has issued a cease-use order for the elevator inside 48 East 65th St., about a block from Central Park. The Associated Press reports the townhouse as being owned by a billionaire investment banker from Arkansas. 

Three violations were also issued to the property owner, for failure to properly maintain; for damaged hoistway door and defective hoist motor; and communications device inoperative, machine brake maintenance tag missing, and other defects.

The violations carry maximum fines of $60,000, according to Rudansky. The property owner will have to fix all the violations and request re-inspection from DOB. 

"DOB investigtion into the incident is ongoing, and we may issue additional enforcement actions as a result," said Rudansky. 

Firefighters rescued the 53-year-old woman Monday around 10:10 a.m. after receiving a 911 call from inside the home; a family member of the owners had been called to the scene, and a deliveryperson went in and found her in an elevator, according to police sources. 

Firefighters freed the woman after forcing entry into the elevator. Emergency transmissions indicated the family's housekeeper could have been trapped there since Friday; the FDNY couldn't confirm exactly when she got stuck, but did say she was there "over the weekend." 

The woman, whose name was not released, told authorities she'd been trapped since Friday while the owners were away for the weekend. She was treated and released from Weill Cornell Medical Center, according to The Associated Press. 

Private elevators in residential homes are required to have at least one annual inspection, and according to city records, the elevator was inspected in July and no violations were filed at the time.

Initially, when someone inside the home denied access to buildings inspectors on Monday after the woman was rescued, the Department of Buildings issued an aggravated violation for failure to provide access.

The luxury 1920 townhouse is owned by Warren A. Stephens and his wife, Harriet Stephens, according to the AP.

In a statement to NBC 4 New York, Stephens, Inc. — Stephens' investment bank based in Little Rock, Arkansas — said: "The employee involved has been a valued member of the Stephens extended family for 18 years. The Stephens family is relieved and thankful that she is doing well in the hospital. A Stephens family member accompanied her to the hospital this morning and remains at her side. The cause of this unfortunate incident is being investigated and appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that something like this never happens again."

Police do not suspect any foul play, but reported incidents of being stuck in an elevator for so many days are rare in New York City.

In 2005, a Chinese restaurant worker was trapped in a Bronx elevator for about 80 hours. And in 1999, a man spent 40 hours in a Manhattan office building elevator before he was seen on a security camera.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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