Inspection report finds several violations following death of elevator technician in Aventura

A 28-year-old elevator technician was killed while working inside the elevator shaft at the Harbor Towers condominium in Aventura on October 12th.

AVENTURA, Fla – A 28-year-old elevator technician was killed while working inside the elevator shaft at the Harbor Towers condominium in Aventura on Oct. 12.

The details of the death were still under investigation, but a county inspection report from the following day found troubling violations. The report found the elevator pit stop switch was inoperative, a “jumper” was found bypassing the switch.

The term jumper, used to describe rigged wiring to keep equipment running, in this case, deliberately disabling critical safety devices such as automatic shut down.

“Like I talked to you last time, I said it’s not a matter of it, but when. And when, unfortunately has happened,” said Greg Levenson, business manager of the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 71.

Local 10 first highlighted concerns over jumpers in March after dozens were discovered on escalators, elevators and moving walkways at Miami International Airport. The company contracted to maintain that equipment, Oracle Elevator, is also the company responsible for elevators at the Aventura condo.

President & CEO Paul Belliveau of Oracle, which also operates under the brand Elevated Facility Services, gave Local 10 a statement which read in part:

“…We are absolutely devastated by this tragic loss…The safety and security of our team members and customers is our utmost priority, and we are fully cooperating and working closely with all authorities and involved parties throughout the investigation.”

Representatives with the union Local 71 detailed how a technician working in the pit of an elevator shaft would first hit the stop switch, which should keep the elevator from running, but not if there was a jumper disabling that switch.

“It’s very critical because then he’s not aware of the potential hazard of that elevator coming down on him,” Levenson explained.

Maharrey’s father wrote in a social media post that his son had just gotten married in August and was expecting a baby when the accident happened.

Miami-Dade County’s Office of Elevator Safety told Local 10 News it was supporting the investigation which was being handled by OSHA, adding the Office had issued a “Lock-out” order of the elevator unit which would be inspected prior to release for operational use.

As for the safety issues involving Oracle-maintained equipment at the airport, the Division Director for the county’s Internal Services Department Alex Alfonso, wrote in an email, “That matter is an open investigation that is being handled by the Office of the Inspector General. As these are both ongoing investigations, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

In May, Oracle’s Vice President Mike West told county commissioners the safety concerns at the airport were a malicious attempt by the union to discredit Oracle, a non-union company. West told Local 10 News at the time, “We think we have a third party involved in this, putting the jumper on the elevators and escalators.”

Union members said their focus has been on keeping people safe and believe more could have been done to prevent this.

“We just lost somebody in our industry”, said Levenson, “When is enough enough? We’ve talked about jumpers at the airport. Now we have a jumper on a job where a technician has passed away.”

Abel Arabitg, a national organization with the International Union of Elevator Constructors said, “It’s not something you can turn your head on it and say ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter, nothing is going to happen.’ No, something can happen and something did happen.”

Both investigations into the deadly elevator accident and the safety concerns over jumpers at Miami International Airport remain under investigation.

About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.