Elevator fall scares student

Adams Hall resident Ian McClatchey said he was rattled and dazed after falling four floors in the residence hall’s elevator Nov. 1, but University officials claim he was never in danger.

The incident came only months after an independent inspector examined all campus elevators and University officials worked to ensure that problems with the elevators were corrected.

McClatchey said he was riding the elevator down from his room on the sixth floor to the basement.

“When the elevator car hit the fourth floor, it began to plummet, stopping with a loud boom halfway between the basement level and the first floor as the emergency brakes slammed on,” he said.

McClatchey said he fell back and to the side, hitting his shoulder. He said he was stuck in the elevator for 45 minutes.

“At 10:05 p.m., the rescue squad was summoned to pry open the doors of the elevator,” University Police Director Dolores Stafford said. “He was freed soon thereafter and he declined medical attention.”

Mike Peller, executive director of Student and Academic Support Administrative Services, denied that the elevator fell.

“It accelerated 20 percent (faster than its normal) speed,” Peller said. “The student was never at any time in any danger.”

Peller said, however, that the incident is “by no means a thing we want to happen.”

McClatchey, who said he suffered from heart problems before the incident, visited Student Health Services a few days after the incident complaining of a headache, vision problems, a sore neck and chest pains.

“I don’t feel like my heart is working right,” McClatchey said, adding that he was prescribed sleeping pills by Student Health.

After the incident McClatchey retained an attorney to seek compensatory damages for the trauma he suffered. But he said Wednesday that he is so frustrated by the process he has decided to “put the whole mess behind him” and drop the lawsuit against the University.

“It’s been a drain on me physically, emotionally, mentally and academically,” McClatchey said. “I don’t want to go through this for the rest of the semester.”

McClatchey said staffers in GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s office had not granted him an appointment with Trachtenberg and that other University administrators have not returned his phone calls.

“I think (the University) has been negligent and irresponsible,” McClatchey said. “Basically, it’s a poor response.”

McClatchey said he does not feel safe in Adams Hall and has been walking the six flights of stairs to his room. He said he has requested a change of residence halls.

“The problem isn’t just a fluke,” he said. “Every time they fix it . something else happens.”

Peller said Delta Elevator Co. responded on the night of the incident after the D.C. fire department shut down the elevator. During a preliminary investigation, Delta Elevator determined that the elevator was safe for operation but did require adjustments.

David McElveen, director of business services for SASS administrative services, said the problem was caused by a difference between the settings of the motor and the computer system installed this summer as part of improvements to the elevator.

McElveen said the elevators have been reset and are working properly.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Peller said. “I rode the elevator myself last Friday.”

-Matt Berger contributed to this report.

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