State reacts to I-Team home elevator investigation

FOX 5 I-Team

State reacts to I-Team home elevator investigation

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTA -

The state promised action after seeing an I-Team investigation on the hidden dangers of residential elevators, and the Insurance Commissioner has delivered. He sent a strongly worded letter out to thousands of people statewide telling them to be very careful if they have children and a home elevator.

RELATED: I-Team investigates home elevator dangers

It starts off in bold, red print, "URGENT."

It goes on, "It has come to my attention of hazards that exist with residential home elevators....."

Georgia Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, whose office inspects in-home elevators, warns that children can get "trapped" between the car gate and the landing door causing "serious injury or possibly death."

He wrote this after watching the I-Team investigation into the Helvey family's daily struggle to take care of their brain-damaged son.

Jacob, now six-years-old, was crushed Christmas Eve 2010 in the family's home elevator.

It was a normal day. His mom Brandi ran upstairs to check on laundry, but for the first time, Jacob did something different. He opened the elevator door and stepped in, but he didn't open the cab's accordion door. He was trapped between the two doors when the elevator started moving. This hard-to-watch animation created for their lawsuit shows what they think happened.

LINK TO ACCIDENT ANIMATION

Brandi Helvey tearfully remembered, "He was down here watching cartoons, playing with his cars on the fireplace. I had all of the gates up, doors locked."

They never assumed a child could even fit into that space between the doors. And even if one did, they also assumed a safety mechanism would keep the elevator from moving if something was trapped.

Mike White has watched the Helvey's story. He has an elevator, too, in the hallway for a similar reason: He has an elderly uncle, who can't use the stairs, living in his house. And just like the Helveys, he has curious little ones coming and going.

"It just strikes so close to home. I have grandchildren at home that could have been…..," his voice trailed off.

But they weren't because he got a warning shot. His dog got trapped between the two doors.

"The dog was able to get between the inside door and the outside door which was I think 6' 3/4"," Mike Young said.

The dog dropped through the crack but fell to the ground. Fortunately, they were on the first floor.

We looked at the White's residential elevator with Monique Swyer, a co-owner of Blue Moose Elevators.

Measuring his gap she said, "We're about 5' 5/8"."

Too wide says this certified elevator mechanic hired by the Whites to put in a new system.

In the state's warning letter more than 9,000 homeowners are reminded to get their elevator inspected to make sure it meets code -- "five (5) inches or less."

Ms. Swyer says on inspections she rarely finds a residential elevator that does.

In ten years nobody has even wanted to fix it," she said.

What she would like to see if only a four-inch gap between doors just like you'd find on crib or stair rails, so that a child's head can't fit. And she recommends every family add their own safety features, such as sensors like you'd see on a garage door that recognizes when someone's trapped.

At the very least, she recommends a space guard attached to the door and door locks out of reach of little hands.

He considers himself lucky. I am. I am," said Mike White shaking his head.

The state sent out a second letter about problems with locks inside the door. That's the lock that keeps the hallway door from opening when the elevator is on another floor. Seems it often slides out of place when a home settles. Too often homeowners open the door to find a big gaping hole in the floor, not the elevator waiting.

Finally, the state asks that if you have a residential elevator get it inspected, at least, annually. Too many units go years without even a look.

If you have a residential elevator or know someone who does, visit Safer Elevators online for an at-home safety check list.

  • I-Team Story ArchiveMore>>

  • Fox 5 I-Team

    Cheap vs. Frugal

    Cheap vs. Frugal

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:15 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:15:25 GMT
    There is nothing wrong with saving a buck, but can you cross the line? There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal.
    There is nothing wrong with saving a buck, but can you cross the line? There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal.
  • Fox 5 I-Team

    Save on Vacation

    Save on Vacation

    Monday, April 21 2014 9:56 AM EDT2014-04-21 13:56:05 GMT
    Thinking about vacation is a lot of fun. Thinking about what it'll cost you is not so fun. Here are some ideas for cutting costs.
    Thinking about vacation is a lot of fun. Thinking about what it'll cost you is not so fun. Here are some ideas for cutting costs.
  • Get Financially Fit: A Step-By-Step Plan

    Get Financially Fit: A Step-By-Step Plan

    Monday, April 14 2014 9:15 AM EDT2014-04-14 13:15:13 GMT
    April is Financial Literacy Month, so it's time to think about getting financially fit.  Let's start with two questions. Do you know how much you spend each month?  How much of your check should you save?
    April is Financial Literacy Month, so it's time to think about getting financially fit.  Let's start with two questions:  Do you know how much you spend each month?  How much of your check should you save?
  • Contact the FOX 5 I-Team

    * denotes required fields

    We're sorry, but only one entry is allowed per person.
    Thank you for your continued interest.

    Thanks for contacting FOX 5.  To reach our newsroom by phone, please call (404) 898-0100.

  • Good Day ArchiveMore>>

  • Dine Out for Project Open Hand

    Dine Out for Project Open Hand

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:39 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:39:13 GMT
    Head out to the a participating restaurant to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Dining Out For Life.
    Head out to the a participating restaurant to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Dining Out For Life.
  • Fox 5 I-Team

    Cheap vs. Frugal

    Cheap vs. Frugal

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:15 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:15:25 GMT
    There is nothing wrong with saving a buck, but can you cross the line? There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal.
    There is nothing wrong with saving a buck, but can you cross the line? There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal.
  • Mountain Festival Brings Music, Dancing To Dahlonega Square

    Mountain Festival Brings Music, Dancing To Dahlonega Square

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:08 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:08:13 GMT
    The North Georgia town of Dahlonega is best-known for its gold. But this weekend, music will bring more than 50,000 people to the historic town square.
    The North Georgia town of Dahlonega is best-known for its gold. But this weekend, music will bring more than 50,000 people to the historic town square.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices