Curious George

A fountain of material and immaterial information - Things that I spend my days wondering about... and perhaps you have been too? Check out for more curious questions (and answers to them)

Friday, September 07, 2007

After my recent near death elevator trip from hell (oK. I admit this is a slight exaggeration.... Read all about it in my "one year in Singapore" blog), fully realizing that man often over-estimates the probability of large disasters occuring, I became very curious about how many people ACTUALLY die from elevator deaths each year.
In the US it turns out to be around 30 people, where half actually works as elevator service/repairmen.The few unfortunate who die most often fall down the chute or get squeezed in some way.Only once in the USA (until 9/11) has an elevator plumeted from having its wire cut. This happened when a military plane crashed into empire state building several decades ago....Guess I can continue stepping into the broken elevator with some comfort that I have the odds on my side of actually surviving the ride.
Worth mentioning that it did happen again just 2 days ago. The elevator started falling fast until a calm nice voice informed us there were "technical dificulties"Read more of what I found out below:
New York's lifts make around 30 million journeys every day. And duringthose billions of trips, last year there were just 139 "serious"accidents
Really, lifts in New York are among the safest places to be. There areabout 63,000 pieces of elevating equipment in the world's tallest city- that's lifts, escalators, dumb-waiters and amusement rides - morethan in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas combined.Altogether, New York's lifts make around 30 million journeys everyday. And during those billions of trips, last year there were just 139"serious" accidents, which either required a passenger to see a doctoror caused more than $100 of damage to the lift and its passengers'property. So far this year, with just weeks to go, the running totalis 132.,,18391-1390913,00.html
Elevators are the safest form of mechanized travel when measured by trips taken: Only about a dozen passengers die in 200 billion trips made annually in 600,000 elevators in the USA. Most deaths are caused by falling down shafts.
Despite common fears, only once before had a passenger elevator had all its cables severed and fallen to the ground, according to Elevator World. That happened in 1945 when an elevator fell 78 stories after a military plane hit the Empire State Building. The woman inside lived.
[RAF: This is important to know if you are inside an elevator of a collapsing building]
The elevators at the World Trade Center trapped people three ways:
Door restrictors dropped a steel rod, like a deadbolt, into the mechanism that opened the elevator's doors. The lock was activated when a properly working elevator left a landing. If the elevator stopped suddenly or lost power, the restrictor made it impossible to open the inside door more than 4 inches. The lock could be released — and the doors opened fully — only from the elevator car's roof.
On all elevators, both those with and those without door restrictors, pressure from the motors kept doors closed until elevator cars were near a landing. Several strong men could overpower these motors. A loss of electrical power also could free the doors.
All of the outside or hallway doors had locks called "interlocks" that prevented opening the doors. This made it difficult for bystanders to help people stuck in elevators. But it was possible for people in an elevator to release this lock, if they had been able to open the inside car door first. The release mechanism for the interlocks was on the shaft side of the door.
Door restrictors proved the most deadly of the three locking devices. In elevators without door restrictors, a few people managed to overcome the other two locks. In two cases, people escaped from elevators whose doors were shut by doorway motors. In another case, passengers overcame the interlock on the hallway doors indirectly by using wire cutters to cut a cable that held the doors shut. into detail about the elevator deaths of 9-11)
Here's a freaky elevator double death
Caught scarf led to womens’ lift deaths
A disabled Greek woman died of a heart attack after her Ukranianhelper choked to death when her scarf got caught in the elevator of anapartment block in central Athens on Sunday night, police saidyesterday.
The women, both aged 46, were leaving a party taking place in aKolonaki apartment when the lift in which they were riding becamestuck between the second and third floors. Residents called the firebrigade immediately but both women were found dead when firemen wereable to gain access to the elevator.
And here are some further research links for those of you interrested:


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