“No one should drown in an elevator”

“Water is seeping into the garage. All employees who parked on the lower levels should move their cars to avoid flooding,” announced the security guard over the intercom.

This is one of the last things 42 year-old Kristie Tautenhahn would hear before she died. As Tropical Storm Allison’s rains poured into downtown Houston, Tautenhahn descended into the lower parking level of the Bank of America Center in one of the skyscraper’s many elevators. Waiting for her at the bottom was a flooded parking garage. Once the elevator car was submerged, the elevator lost power. Tautenhahn’s body was found 3 hours later. After the incident, her mother was heard saying, “Something like this just shouldn’t have happened. No one should drown in an elevator.”

The Bank of America elevator drowning happened in 2001. Yesterday, in New York City, the incident was almost repeated. After a heavy rain in The Big Apple, two construction workers boarded an elevator in an old building and ended up in the basement with water pouring into the car. Amazingly, they were able to call for help and give an close intersection before their phone cut out. When the fire department arrived, the security officer told them everything was fine. Luckily, they walked around to make sure and heard screaming. The trapped passengers were able to break open the emergency exit to get out of the water. -Click here for full story-

They were rescued, but it begs the question: why hasn’t the elevator industry dealt with this? Well, they have. Sort of. Automatic sump pumps will pump water out of a pit, but when a basement fills up with water the little pit sump pump is actually attempting to pump out an entire basement level of water. Float switches that send the car away from the lower landings and lock them out of service are now required on units in some jurisdictions but will not likely be mandated in existing setups. I wonder if Hines Interests (the management company for Bank of America) had pit float switches installed in all of their downtown properties that serve basement levels after the 2001 incident…

Elevator Pit Float Switch

NEMA 4x Pit Float Switch by CJ Anderson


1 comment

  1. Post: August 17th, 2011: ERS-2011-08-17 #265 Show Notes | Elevator Radio Show Podcast says:

    […] nearly drown pair trapped in N.Y. Elevator Houston Elevator Drowning Original Article from 2001 No one should drown in an elevator! Elevator outage hits private equity firms Stairlift company announces special offer Six trapped in […]

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