Man, 82, pushed emer­gency twice

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Kirk Mitchell

An el­derly man who died in a park­ing-garage el­e­va­tor had pushed the emer­gency but­ton twice dur­ing an 8-minute span July 6 but got no re­sponse de­spite Den­ver code re­quir­ing el­e­va­tor op­er­a­tors to mon­i­tor emer­gency no­ti­fi­ca­tions around the clock.

Un­able to es­cape the el­e­va­tor car — pos­si­bly be­cause of de­men­tia — 82-year-old Isaak Komis­archik died be­tween the morn­ing of July 6 and Aug. 2, when el­e­va­tor re­pair work­ers fi­nally dis­cov­ered the body af­ter mul­ti­ple res­i­dents of the apart­ment com­plex re­ported a ter­ri­ble stench.

When a Den­ver fire­fighter re­sponded, the el­e­va­tor doors were open. El­e­va­tor main­te­nance work­ers had just found Komis­archik’s body in­side the car, Den­ver Fire Depart­ment spokesman Capt. Greg Pix­ley said.

A crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­firmed the num­ber of times the emer­gency but­ton was pushed, Pix­ley said. Now de­tec­tives are try­ing to de­ter­mine why no one re­sponded.

“Some­thing is not right,” Pix­ley said.

The el­e­va­tor in which Komis­archik died served a park­ing garage at the Wood­stream Vil­lage apart­ments, 10050 E. Har­vard Ave. The garage had been closed for ren­o­va­tion.

Pix­ley said MEI To­tal El­e­va­tor So­lu­tions mon­i­tors the el­e­va­tor for Wood­stream. MEI did not re­ply to sev­eral phone mes­sages left by The Den­ver Post seek­ing com­ment.

“We are sad­dened by the tragic loss of life and ex­tend our

deep­est con­do­lences to Mr. Komis­archik’s fam­ily and friends,” Greys­tar Man­age­ment Ser­vices, which man­ages Wood­stream, said in a state­ment re­leased by spokes­woman Lind­say An­drews.

She wrote that the el­e­va­tor was not in use due to the ren­o­va­tion and said Greys­tar is “con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the in­ci­dent with the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.”

She de­clined to com­ment about why no one re­sponded to the emer­gency calls.

Den­ver Med­i­cal Ex­am­iner spokesman Steven Castro said the cause of Komis­archik’s death has not yet been de­ter­mined. Pix­ley said it can be dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine a cause of death when a body is badly de­com­posed.

Nu­mer­ous Wood­stream res­i­dents com­plained to man­agers of a strong odor em­a­nat­ing from the garage area but noth­ing was done. An­drews de­clined to com­ment about the com­plaints.

The fact that Komis­archik pushed the emer­gency but­ton twice adds a per­plex­ing di­men­sion to the in­ci­dent. It ap­pears Komis­archik did what he needed to do to get help, yet the closely reg­u­lated sys­tem for res­cu­ing peo­ple trapped in el­e­va­tors failed.

“The el­e­va­tor wasn’t in­op­er­a­ble,” said John White, spokesman for Den­ver po­lice, con­tra­dict­ing nu­mer­ous re­ports that el­e­va­tor was not work­ing. “How he got in there and when he got in there is ob­vi­ously what we’re try­ing to fig­ure out.”

Mis­con­cep­tions about the dis­cov­ery of Komis­archik’s body make it im­pos­si­ble to fully grasp just how bizarre the in­ci­dent was, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials and res­i­dents of the apart­ment com­plex. Some of­fi­cials ini­tially re­ported that Komis­archik’s body was found in the el­e­va­tor shaft, Pix­ley said.

Komis­archik was last seen wear­ing pa­ja­mas at 2:30 p.m. July 5 at a nearby nurs­ing fa­cil­ity in the 9900 block of East Yale Av­enue. His dis­ap­pear­ance sparked a large dragnet in which miss­ing per­sons posters were dis­trib­uted and Den­ver fire­fight­ers searched five ponds near Wood­stream in an at­tempt to find him.

Ac­cord­ing to city codes adopted in 1981, the in­te­rior of all el­e­va­tor cars must have sig­nal­ing de­vices in­clud­ing an emer­gency switch la­beled “Alarm” ad­ja­cent to the car’s oper­at­ing panel and a phone or in­ter­com la­beled “Help” al­low­ing two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion with se­cu­rity.

In some cases, the alarms are con­nected to the Den­ver Fire Depart­ment or an el­e­va­tor-mon­i­tor­ing com­pany, which is re­spon­si­ble for in­ves­ti­gat­ing an emer­gency call. When the twoway com­mu­ni­ca­tion phone or in­ter­com is not con­nected to on-site se­cu­rity, a call must au­to­mat­i­cally be for­warded within 30 sec­onds to the el­e­va­tor-mon­i­tor­ing com­pany.

El­e­va­tors are reg­u­larly in­spected by the fire depart­ment. The garage el­e­va­tor at Wood­stream Vil­lage was last in­spected in De­cem­ber and found to be in good work­ing or­der, Pix­ley said.

The fire depart­ment did not re­ceive any emer­gency calls from that par­tic­u­lar el­e­va­tor car dur­ing the pe­riod of time Komis­archik was in it.

When po­lice checked, two el­e­va­tor calls from the same el­e­va­tor car where Komis­archik was found were elec­tron­i­cally logged at 9:09 a.m. and 9:17 a.m. on July 6, the day af­ter he dis­ap­peared.

Nearly a month later, a Den­ver fire lieu­tenant was in­spect­ing an apart­ment com­plex ad­ja­cent to Wood­stream that is also man­aged by Greys­tar when the main­te­nance man­ager re­ceived a call from el­e­va­tor re­pair staff say­ing they thought there was a body in the el­e­va­tor.

The fire lieu­tenant fol­lowed the man­ager to the nearby park­ing garage, Pix­ley said, but when she reached the garage, she smelled an odor so in­tense that she knew it was a body.

Isaak Komis­archik, 82, died be­tween the morn­ing of July 6 and Aug. 2 af­ter get­ting no re­sponse from press­ing a but­ton.

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