MIAMI – Local 10 News has been looking into troubling safety concerns at Miami International Airport.
Elevators, escalators and moving walkways repeatedly found with critical safety features disabled and many with inspection certificates that have been expired for years.
“These are machines, they don’t have minds,” said Abel Arabitg with the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC). “They are meat grinders.”
Serious questions are being raised about the safety and maintenance of equipment inside Miami-Dade County’s biggest revenue generator, Miami International Airport.
“Escalators, moving walks, a couple elevators are what’s been brought to my attention,” said Greg Levenson with IUEC Local 71.
Mechanic Luis Colon works for Oracle Elevator, the company contracted by the county to maintain elevators, escalators and moving walkways at the airport.
He says the company suspended him in December after he reported several safety issues.
“It’s a serious situation and I tried to report to everybody because I’m concerned,” Colon told Local 10 News. “I’m worried about my safety and the public’s safety.”
Records show in early 2020 Colon and county inspectors discovered more than a dozen cases of rigged wiring, known as jumpers, deliberately disabling critical safety devices, like automatic shut downs in the event of a problem.
“I think you can’t imagine somebody can die because that unit is not going to stop in some serious situation,” he said.
“If it doesn’t stop because that safety device has been bypassed, it can just suck your foot in, it can suck your child’s foot in,” added Arabitg.
In July, the county aviation department sent an email to Oracle after yet another safety bypass was discovered, writing “all of these issues are not acceptable and will *not be tolerated.”
In December, a county inspection uncovered yet another jumper.
Local 10 News also found many of the certificates of inspection on the equipment inside the airport are expired, with one dated as far back as 2013.
Oracle Elevator sent Local 10 News a statement saying the local elevator union has never liked them, a non-union company, having the airport contract, adding:
“If any unsafe condition is discovered, the unit is immediately shut down, the issue is addressed, and the riding public is not allowed access until the unit is safe...”
An airport spokesperson told local 10 News the office of elevator safety found no issues during an inspection in January, and:
“All escalators and moving walkways serviced by Oracle Elevator received an additional safety inspection by OES the week of March 1, and that inspection also showed zero safety issues.”
“It’s more or less not if, but when it’s going to happen,” said Levenson. “Someone is going to get severely hurt or god forbid killed.”
Local 10 has been informed the County’s Office of the Inspector General has opened an investigation into the safety issues.
The full statements from Miami International Airport, Miami-Dade County and Oracle Elevators can be seen below:
MIA: “The safety of passengers and employees at MIA is our top priority. All moving equipment units are regularly inspected by the Miami-Dade County Office of Elevator Safety (OES).
“An inspection by OES of all Oracle units at MIA in January showed zero safety issues. Out of an over-abundance of caution, all escalators and moving walkways serviced by Oracle Elevator received an additional special safety inspection by OES the week of March 1, and that inspection also showed zero safety issues.”
Miami-Dade County COO Jimmy Morales: “Our top priority is the safety of passengers and employees at MIA, and that’s why we have completed an additional inspection of all elevators, escalators, and moving walkways serviced by Oracle Elevator and found no safety issues with this equipment. I’m directing county staff to review all outstanding inspection certifications and make sure they are all brought up to date.”