NEW YORK (AP) — A falling elevator trapped and crushed a man to death on New Year's Eve, and witnesses said he helped a woman to safety before losing his own life.
The man, identified as Stephen Hewett-Brown, 25, was riding the lower Manhattan elevator around midnight when it malfunctioned. He was able to push a woman out of the lift and onto one of the building's floors before getting pinned between the elevator car and the shaft as he tried to escape himself, witnesses said.
They said he wished onlookers a happy new year before he died from his injuries. Witness Manuel Coronado said he tried to help Hewett-Brown but couldn't lift him out.
"He was saying, 'I can't breathe.' I tried to pull him up, but he said, 'Leave me here, leave me here,'" Coronado told the Daily News of New York.
The New York Police Department said the victim was unconscious, suffering from severe body trauma, when officers arrived shortly after midnight. A police spokesman said he had no information on the exact circumstances of Hewett-Brown's death, but the department says no criminality is suspected.
The city Buildings Department was investigating the accident. It came after a string of complaints and violation notices over the years about the Broome Street high-rise's three elevators, Buildings Department records show. They indicate it was inspected as recently as September and that a violation notice concerning the up-and-down lights was unresolved as of Thursday.
"The elevators were a problem and needed to be fixed," former Tenants Association President Dashia Imperiale told WABC-TV, saying the lifts sometimes lurch up and down. But another resident, Zin Halcomb, told the station he felt the building was well-maintained.
Messages left for the property manager weren't immediately returned Friday.
Meanwhile, a friend of the victim's, Ejiro Omenih, was absorbing the news of his death and the accounts of his life-saving actions.
"I feel that that alone shows his character," Omenih told WABC-TV.
He said Hewlett-Brown was an aspiring musician who played piano and performed hip-hop and soul.
Brown's mother told the Daily News the family declined to comment.
Information from: Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com