One of the most heroic acts of 2015 took place in the year’s final moments, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Just a few minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve, 25-year-old Stephen Hewett-Brown helped a woman climb safely out of a stalled elevator before being crushed to death by the malfunctioning elevator car.
Stephen was attending a friend’s New Years party at the Grand Street Guild Apartments on Broome Street. The elevator he and his friends were riding stalled between the second and third floors.
When one of the passengers attempted to climb out onto the platform, Stephen pushed her to safety and wished her a “happy New Year.” Before Stephen could get back into the car, the elevator jerked down pinning his body at the hip.
Stephen’s friends called 911 immediately. Though the 7th Precinct station is located just across the street from their building, Stephen was unresponsive when police arrived.
Stephen was pronounced dead at New York Downtown Hospital early on January 1st.
The most tragic part of Stephen’s story is that it was completely preventable. At the time of his death there were 3 active violations on file with the Buildings Department regarding the elevators at the Grand Street Guild Apartments.
“There are records of people being stuck, I was stuck,” said Dashia Imperiale, the former Tenants Association President for the building. “It jumps. It jumps a couple of floors. It goes down and then it goes up.”
An investigation into the reasons for the elevator’s malfunctioning is ongoing.
For New York State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Keith Wright, this incident is part of a bigger problem in New York.
“Elevators are part of our daily lives — we need to ensure they are up to the safety standards on which lives depend,” said Squadron.
This week Squadron and Wright called on New York State legislators to pass the Elevator Safety Act, a bill that would ensure better training for elevator workers and create an oversight committee for elevator safety.
City residents can report safety concerns in their own buildings by calling 311 or by visiting NYC.gov.
Brito, Christopher and Mario Diaz, “Man, 25, crushed to death by Lower East Side elevator: NYPD,” Pix 11, 1 January 2016.
Fleischer, Tim, “Man Killed After Saving Woman in Lower East Side Elevator Incident,” ABC7NY, 1 January 2016.
“NY Officials Call For Elevator Safety Bill With Improved Regulations,” CBS New York, 8 January 2016.
“Residents Say Elevator In Deadly LES Accident Has Been A Problem For Years,” CBS New York, 1 January 2016.