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July 23, 2013 at 4:46 PM

State: Transit-tunnel death not caused by escalator malfunction

Mechanical problems were not to blame in the death of 42-year-old Maurecio Bell, who fell and was strangled in a University Street Station escalator April 8, the state Department of Labor & Industries said Tuesday.

During the incident his clothing became tangled at the bottom of the escalator, shortly after 5 a.m. A bottle of brandy was found in his back pocket, and video showed he didn’t grasp for a railing after he stumbled. A statement by Jose Rodriguez, an L&I assistant director, said: “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.”

Despite the report, L&I contends that escalator safety needs greater monitoring. The 2013 Legislature approved five inspectors and a technical specialist, adding to the 22 staff who now inspect 16,600 escalators and elevators. L&I also says a new billing system will do a better job of promptly issuing fines to building owners who don’t make repairs within 90 days after inspections.

In 2011, King County Metro began to gradually replace its 40 old escalators in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, aided by a $5.4 million federal grant.

escalator

The Bellevue Square escalator failure, December 2012. Photo by witnesses Cyleste Huynh and Daniel Kao.

In December, seven people at Macy’s in Bellevue Square were injured after a mechanical failure dislodged several steps, an incident L&I blamed on poor maintenance.

 

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