State Proposes To Make Home Elevators Safer

State Proposes To Make Home Elevators Safer

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. - After an I-Team investigation into the dangers of residential elevators to children, the state says it's ready to make them safer. The insurance and fire safety commissioner plans to propose changes that he hopes will make Georgia a "trendsetter" in elevator safety.

It was video of Jacob Helvey struggling with severe brain damage after getting trapped in a home elevator that prompted the state's top man for elevator safety to start calling meetings.

"Because I don't want this to happen again," said Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.

Mr. Hudgens, the insurance and safety fire commissioner, will propose a change in the state's residential elevator code - one that he hopes will prevent children from getting injured in home elevators.

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"I think that once we do this and some other states take the same approach that we are, that they'll change the national standard."

To understand the proposed change, you have to understand how Jacob got trapped.

Most home elevators have a main hallway door entrance then a second gate that's actually attached to the elevator cabin. The current national standard indicates the space between the two should not be more than fives inches wide.

But here's the problem: Hard-to-watch animation from the Helveys show how they believe Jacob stepped through one door but not the other. The elevator started moving and the child fit into that five-inch gap because a flexible, accordion door, says his family, spread open. He was crushed.


John Koshak is a national elevator safety expert. He told Georgia's elevator committee that with the accordion door the five-inch gap quickly got bigger.

"In fact, at the Helvey home it was eight inches," said John Koshak.

The commissioner wants to go to a smaller, three-inch space, but his proposal doesn't yet account for the extra room accordion doors offer.

"It's fantastic news," said Jacob's mother Brandi Helvey.

Mike Helvey chimed in, sounding relieved, "Finally."

Both Mike and Brandi Helvey say it's a step in the right direction, but the Helvey's attorney says this proposal still wouldn't have prevented Jacob's devastating accident.

Andy Cash says with the new rule change Jacob most likely would have still been injured.

Mr. Cash said, "He could have fit."

The Helveys think the state is at the finish but in danger of stopping before the race is over.

"I think the next step is mandating the bi-fold doors shouldn't be used," said Mike Helvey. His wife agrees, "Because they're adding an extra three inches."

The new proposal could bet voted on at a July 24th meeting. If OK'd, the new rule will go into effect January 2015.

And finally, as far as we know, the new rule would only address new elevator installation not retrofitting already exist systems with new safety features.

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