CURRITUCK COUNTY, N.C. (NEXSTAR/WAVY) – A 7-year-old Ohio boy was killed in a residential elevator accident in North Carolina over the weekend in what federal officials have identified as part of a pattern of similar incidents.
EMS crews said they received a call around 7 p.m. Sunday at a home on North Carolina’s Outer Banks regarding a child trapped inside an elevator.
The boy, whose family was from Canton, Ohio, was found trapped between the elevator car and the elevator shaft inside the home. Officials say the boy could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The sheriff’s office confirmed the incident was accidental.
Investigators said the accident appeared to fit a pattern of residential elevators crushing children after they get trapped in the inches-wide space between the two elevator doors, The Washington Post reported. When the elevator moves, both doors close and lock as one door moves with the elevator car and the other sits on the floor landing.
According to the Post, the elevator industry has known about this safety hazard for decades as well as a simple fix: a $100 plastic or foam insert to block the gap.
Industry officials have argued that the problem is complicated and not their responsibility, according to a 2019 Washington Post investigation.
At least eight children have died and two others have been seriously hurt in elevator entrapments from 1981 to 2019, the Post reported, citing Consumer Product Safety Commission records and newspaper accounts, but elevator industry experts maintain that the number is much higher.
In 2019, the CPSC issued a safety alert about “a deadly gap between doors of home elevators.”
“CPSC is aware of several tragic incidents in which children became entrapped between the doors leading to death, serious fractures, traumatic asphyxia, and lifelong injuries,” the agency said at the time, adding that the “dangerous gaps” can be remedied by using space guards or installing an electronic monitoring device to detect when a child is in the gap.
Then last year, the CPSC approved a safety recall for Otis Elevator Co., which voluntarily agreed to inspect about 5,000 residential elevators.
“Otis is aware of at least four incidents involving an Otis or CemcoLift private residence elevator that resulted in a crushed spine and abdomen, fractured hip, broken arm and feet, and bruising to the face and chest,” the CPSC stated at the time.
Officials in North Carolina said they have had close calls in the past with elevator injuries at homes, however, the 7-year-old is the first fatality.
The North Carolina Department of Labor conducts inspections on elevators, but inspections are only completed on new installations or when there are changes made to existing equipment.