Carrie O’Connor, a 38-year-old Boston University professor, died on Monday at around 5:15 p.m. when she was crushed in an elevator accident in her apartment building. Boston police released the victim’s identity on Tuesday and said O’Connor died of traumatic asphyxiation, ruling her death accidental, NBC Boston reported.
According to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, traumatic asphyxia is usually caused when a person is crushed “by an object that compresses the chest or upper abdomen.”
O’Connor’s death was also confirmed by Boston University, where she worked as a French lecturer at the College of Arts & Sciences. She was described as adventurous, a traveler who had a “commitment to community and learning.” She is survived by her parents, her brother and sister-in-law, and “two cats that she loved — Artemis and Apollo,” according to her father.
O’Connor Died in What Witnesses Described as a ‘Horrifying’ Accident in Her Apartment Building’s Elevator
O’Connor had moved into the Commonwealth Avenue building in the Allston neighborhood of Boston only a few weeks before her death, neighbors said. One of O’Connor’s neighbors, Leanne Scorzino, described the incident to NBC Boston: “It was horrifying. It wasn’t a cry. I can’t even describe what it was. I went out in the hall because I genuinely thought someone was being murdered.”
She said when she got to the hallway, a neighbor told her that O’Connor had been trying to load a large, heavy package into the elevator and he’d warned her that it wouldn’t fit. She said all she could see was the open elevator door and the top of the car and cables.
In an interview with WCVB, Scorzino said, “I heard someone that was bringing in a package out in the hallway, and then I heard an ungodly scream. Then we ran out into the hallway, and we saw a gentleman who was obviously in distress. He was screaming and hyperventilating, saying: ‘She’s dead! She’s dead!'” According to the New York Post, a neighbor who saw the elevator accident was brought to the hospital for trauma.
Boston’s Division of Professional Licensure told NBC Boston that the elevator “was recently inspected and was certified in accordance with state regulations.” The elevator was described by neighbors as “old-fashioned,” the Post wrote. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, led by the Boston Police Department.
O’Connor Was Entering Her Second Year at Boston University as a Full-Time Professor
O’Connor was passionate about learning and fell in love with the French language in middle school, according to her mother. In a Boston University article about O’Connor’s death, her mother said, “Once she learned to read when she was just a little one, we used to have to bribe her to stop her reading and get outside.” She added that O’Connor took college-level French classes while she was in high school.
O’Connor’s Boston University profile states that she obtained a bachelor’s degree in French and accounting and information systems at Virginia Tech before continuing her French language and literature studies “in Vermont and Paris, France, where she completed an MA in French from Middlebury College.” She obtained her Ph.D. in French studies at Louisiana State University.
Stan Sclaroff, dean of Arts & Sciences, wrote to the faculty: “Carrie’s involvement, for example, as one of the initiators of the ‘First Mondays’ French Language section gatherings was indicative of a spirit of resourcefulness, collegiality, and inclusiveness that characterizes the Department of Romance Studies. We are fortunate that Carrie found a home here. She will be sorely missed.”
The professor had just turned 38 in August, Boston University wrote, and she was starting her second year as a full-time lecturer after having taught for two years at the school on a part-time basis. Before joining Boston University, O’Connor taught a variety of courses at Bentley University, Louisiana State University, MIT, Northeastern University and Tufts University, including “French language, French for Business, Conversational French, French literature in translation and French culture through gastronomy,” her profile states.