Molly Crane – Newman and Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
A 30-year-old man was crushed to death by a falling elevator in his luxury Kips Bay apartment building Thursday as passengers watched in horror, officials said.
Samuel Waisbren rode the elevator down to the lobby of his 23-story apartment building, known as the Manhattan Promenade, at 344 Third Ave. near E. 26th St. with six other residents about 8:30 a.m. — but didn’t make it out alive.
“It’s hard to see how you can go on living when such a big thing is taken from you,” the victim’s devastated father, Dr. Charles Waisbren, told the Daily News, speaking by phone from his home in Milwaukee.
“Sam was an absolutely wonderful young man. Smart and loving and very, very sensitive. He had his whole life ahead of him.”
Waisbren started to walk out of the elevator on the heels of another passenger when the lift suddenly plummeted, crushing him, according to officials and a building worker who witnessed the gruesome mishap.
The passenger who made it off the elevator spun around and tried to help the trapped victim.
“The elevator took him down,” a worker who witnessed the horror said. “It’s awful. It was disgusting.”
The five people who remained on the descending elevator were forced to watch as Waisbren was sucked into the gap between the shaft and the elevator car, officials said.
“Some people were left on the car after the car moved down to the basement,” FDNY Chief Anthony Arpaia said.
Waisbren was crushed by the elevator against a shaft wall and died at the scene, authorities said.
Arpaia said responding firefighters scrambled to remove the five horrified passengers and free the victim.
“The patient was unfortunately stuck between the first floor and basement,” Arpaia said. “We had to work pretty hard to get the elevator car moved and extract the patient.”
Waisbren moved to the city six years ago, relatives said. He worked in sales at software company CB Insights.
“A Midwest boy goes out to the big city — and dies,” his father said. “It’s just horrible to feel that he’s not going to grow up to have children, to have his own family, progress in his career.”
The dad said his son had complained to his parents about elevator problems in the building, where one-bedrooms rent for $3,600 per month.
“My feeling about New York is you pay a bazillion dollars for rent, the least they could do is provide safety,” the victim’s father said.
The building’s management company, ATA Enterprises, did not return calls for comment.
City Building Department records show problems with a safety device on the elevator next to the one where Waisbren died. Inspectors discovered the problem May 29, and it hadn’t been resolved as of Thursday.
Residents said the building’s two elevators have long been an issue.
“There’s always something wrong with the elevators,” said Dayna Sargen, 39, who’s lived in the building with her husband and two small kids for two years. ‘They’re always down, people are getting stuck.”
“If I had ever thought that this could happen I would’ve never ever put myself and my family in an elevator,” she added. “It’s just sad. It’s tragic.”
Buildings Department inspectors were investigating how the elevator malfunctioned.
“Elevators are the safest form of travel in New York, due to the city’s stringent inspection and safety requirements,” said Buildings Department spokeswoman Abigail Kunitz. “We’re determined to find out what went wrong at this building and seek ways to prevent incidents like this in the future.”
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