News | Communication Services, 360-902-5400 - PublicAffairs@Lni.wa.gov

L&I finds April 8 Metro fatality not directly related to escalator failure

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July 23, 2013

Tumwater – The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) today released a report on its investigation into an April 8 fatality on a King County Metro escalator. The report found no mechanical problems with the escalator that could have contributed to the incident.

Maurecio Bell of Seattle died of strangulation after falling on a University Street Station escalator in the early morning hours, according to the King County Medical Examiner's Office. A piece of his clothing had become caught in the mechanism at the bottom of the stairway.

Though L&I's investigation did not find evidence of any escalator malfunction that could have caused his clothing to snag, the report noted that the incident itself caused major damage to the machinery, making it impossible for investigators to know for sure.

"All of us who work on escalator safety are saddened by the death of this Seattle citizen, and our hearts go out to his family and friends," said José Rodriguez, L&I Assistant Director for Field Services & Public Safety. "Although we found that Mr. Bell's death was not caused by a malfunction, it doesn't take away from the loss. Perhaps it's a good time for us to remind everyone to take special care when riding an escalator."

The release of the report comes at a time when L&I is launching a number of improvements to its inspection system that had been in the works for years:

  • More inspectors: Funding for five additional inspectors and one technical specialist requested by L&I was approved by 2013 Legislature. L&I currently has 22 staff inspecting the state's 16,600 escalators and elevators.
  • New penalties: The Department is now working with stakeholders to pursue rulemaking that includes a new fine of $500 per month, per conveyance for building owners who are late conducting an annual safety test.
  • Tougher oversight over maintenance procedures and more transparency: L&I worked with the state's maintenance companies to develop maintenance checklists for all elevator and escalator models. Checklists and schedules must be clearly posted in building engine rooms so owners can track the work.
  • A modernized billing system that will automatically track and fine violators: Launched on July 1, the new system will do a better job of systematically issuing fines to building owners who don't make corrections within 90 days of inspections.

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For more information:  Dana Botka, 360-902-5408 or Dana.Botka@Lni.wa.gov.

Connect with L&I: Facebook (facebook.com/laborandindustries) and Twitter (twitter.com/lniwa)

Broadcast version:
The Department of Labor and Industries released a report today that said its investigators did not find any mechanical problems with the King Country Metro escalator that could have contributed to the death of a Seattle man last April 8th.  Maurecio Bell fell while riding the University Street escalator in the early morning hours. The release of the report comes at a time when L&I is launching a number of improvements to its inspection system that had been in the works for years — including more inspectors, a proposed new penalty and a modernized system that will issue fines automatically to building owners who don't make corrections within 90 days.

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