No Malfunction in Elevator Accident That Crushed Professor to Death: Report

Carrie O'Connor

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A state inspection report into the death of Boston University professor Carrie O’Connor, who was crushed to death in her apartment building’s elevator, found that there was no malfunction with the elevator. The report, obtained by NBC10 Boston, was completed by the Massachusetts Office of Public Safety and Inspections.

O’Connor, a 38-year-old French lecturer at Boston University, died on September 14 of traumatic asphyxiation after she fell down the elevator shaft in her apartment building and was pinned between the elevator and the shaft, NBC10 reported. O’Connor had just moved into the Allston neighborhood building at 1140 Commonwealth Ave. a few weeks earlier, neighbors told WCVB at the time, and at the time of the incident she’d been struggling to fit a large package into the elevator.

According to the Boston Globe, the state’s report concluded that there was no elevator malfunction but the “emergency stop switch was not labeled at the time of the accident,” and O’Connor’s death was the result of a “tragic convergence of circumstances,” the outlet reported. It was signed by Inspector Martin Guiod and O’Connor’s name was redacted in the report, the outlet wrote.

The Report, Referencing Video Footage of the Incident, Indicated That O’Connor’s Package Hit a Switch That Set the Elevator in Motion

The Boston Globe wrote that the state’s report, which was based on video from the building, said O’Connor was moving a large package into the elevator before the accident occurred. The package was 7-and-a-half-foot-long and almost 80 pounds with instructions on the box that more than one person should be lifting it.

The elevator, described in the report as a “birdcage” elevator, requires people to manually close an interior gate, NBC10 reported. Once that gate is shut, a switch is activated letting the elevator know it can move. Just before the September 14 accident occurred, someone in the basement pressed the elevator button, which meant that the elevator was ready to go down as soon as the switch was activated.

Video of the accident showed that O’Connor, who was struggling with the package, accidentally triggered the switch indicating that the interior gate was closed, even though it wasn’t, NBC10 wrote. As the elevator began to move downward, O’Connor lost her grip on the package and it disengaged the switch, stopping the elevator between the first floor and the basement.

O’Connor was then seen on video readjusting the package, causing it to activate the switch again. As the elevator began to move downward again, O’Connor disappeared from the video, the inspector wrote in the report, meaning she’d fallen into the elevator shaft. NBC10 reported that firefighters found the professor’s body pinned between the elevator and the shaft.

Guiod concluded, “Based upon my technical inspection, my investigation, and my observation of the video, there is no indication that any malfunction occurred with the elevator. It is my conclusion that the elevator was operating as designed.” He also wrote that the elevator had recently passed an inspection and was certified.

Colleagues Remembered O’Connor’s Passion for the French Language & Teaching Others

A Boston University obituary for O’Connor described her as passionate about language and sharing that love with others. The professor was starting her second year as a full-time lecturer after two years of part-time teaching at the school.

Odile Cazenave, a French professor and the chair of romance studies, said, “Already then, and even more so now, she was an intrinsic part of the French section and the department at large. As I spoke with her parents this morning, I let them know how much Carrie is very much alive and part of our department.”

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.”

O’Connor is survived by her parents, her brother Philip and sister-in-law Sara, the university wrote.

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