An apparent elevator malfunction on Monday claimed the life of Tsou Wen-hao (鄒文豪), a physician at National Yilan University in Yilan County and the director of the orthopedics department at Taipei Veterans General Hospital’s Yuanshan Branch.
Tsou, 45, a campus physician since 2008, was on duty at the time of the incident.
He was found dead at about 3pm, when a building custodian examined the gymnasium elevator in response to students’ complaints about it not responding to calls.
The custodian discovered that the car was stuck between the first and the second floor, and through its open doors saw the reflection of a man caught between the inside of the car and the elevator shaft.
Emergency services were called, and firefighters and paramedics arrived at the scene at 3:22pm.
They found Tsou dead. With the assistance of technicians from the elevator company, the first responders slowly lowered the car, crawled through the shaft and retrieved Tsou’s body.
The Yilan District Prosecutors’ Office said that an autopsy had been performed, which concluded that Tsou’s death was caused by hypovolemic shock as a result of severe blood loss from injuries to his lower body.
Further investigation is to be conducted to determine if the incident was the result of human or mechanical error, it added.
Sources said that Tsou called the elevator on the gymnasium ground floor at 2:15pm.
The car apparently failed to stop level with the floor and Tsou fell as he entered. The carriage proceeded to rise without closing its doors, killing Tsou as it moved 3m up the shaft to the second floor before stopping.
University administrators said the elevator was licensed for use since May 4, 1999, and had recently passed its monthly maintenance on May 9, which the elevator company had been contracted to perform.
Use of all 22 elevators on campus was suspended pending safety inspections, with the most dated or worn elevators to be replaced.
Pacific Elevator Industrial Co, the firm contracted by the university, confirmed that it had performed maintenance on the 17-year-old carriage over the past seven years without ever changing any of its electrical components, even though the unit had exceeded its government-specified 15-year service life by two years.
Replacement of equipment that has exceeded its service life is not a legal requirement, the company said, adding that all of its elevators are insured and that it is to pay out according to the policy.
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