What Tab Batts says happened late on the afternoon of July 11 would make any elevator rider’s hair stand on end.
Batts lives in the 22-story Allure building in Stamford’s high-rise development, Harbor Point. Batts, an independent contractor who delivers packages for Amazon, said he parked his van after a day’s work and was on his way up to his seventh-floor apartment.
He pushed the button for an elevator.
“I heard a weird banging and clanging sound. When the elevator came and the door opened, I put a foot in and looked up into the shaft,” Batts said.
The elevator that arrived for him was on the right, Batts said. In the gap between the wall and the elevator box, he saw people on a floor above pushing a cart into the elevator on the left, he said.
“It looked like they were moving their furniture. I thought, ‘That’s what the noise was,’” Batts said. “I got in my elevator and let the doors close.”
As the elevator ascended, the noise returned, Batts said.
“It was BANG! BANG! Really loud. I thought, ‘Oh, man. That’s the elevator making the noise,’” he said. “I wasn’t sure what was happening. I saw the indicators lighting up. It changed to six and I thought, ‘OK, I’m almost there.’”
But the elevator did not reach the seventh floor, Batts said. All of a sudden, it dropped.
“The floor fell from under me. My back and the side of my head slammed against the ceiling,” he said. “It was falling very fast. I was thinking, ‘Brace yourself. This is going all the way down to the bottom floor.’ And I thought, ‘Am I going to die like this?’
“Then some emergency brake, or something, stopped it,” he said. “I slammed into the floor of the elevator. I tried to lay flat. I thought, ‘Is this thing hanging by a string?’ I didn’t want to stand in case it fell again.”
He lay on the floor, waiting to see if the elevator had really landed, Batts said. Then he decided to see if he could move.
“I realized I could, so I went to the red emergency button and pressed it. A recording came on. It said, ‘The number you are calling is not in service.’ I dialed it again. Same thing. I thought, ‘Oh my God,’” Batts said. “I took my phone out and tried to call my wife, but I was thinking how a cellphone never works in an elevator. The call didn’t go through. I texted her but that didn’t work. So I got back on the floor and started banging on the door. The people who were moving furniture heard me. They said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘I’m stuck in the elevator.’ They said, ‘We’ll call 911.’ Then the fire department came and got me out.”
The elevator had fallen from just below the seventh floor to the fourth floor, where the people were moving their belongings into an apartment, Batts said.
He didn’t feel any pain, he said. He just wanted to go to his apartment. He was wary of taking an elevator so he walked up the seven flights of stairs, Batts said.
“I sat on the couch. I was really shaken up. My wife came home about 20 minutes later and I told her, ‘You know I don’t scare easily, but I felt fear in that elevator,’” Batts said.
When he woke up the next day, he was in excruciating pain, Batts said.
“I was on my hands and knees. I couldn’t stand. I was crying tears,” he said. “My wife took me to the hospital.”
Doctors sent him home with pain medication, he said. But the next day, after his wife went to work, he called an ambulance.
“I had to go back to the hospital,” Batts said. “The pain was so bad.”
A few days later, he had to return to the hospital again, he said.
Three months later, he’s still under treatment, including physical therapy and acupuncture, said Batts, a New York City native who has lived at Allure since it opened about four years ago. He is waiting for the results of an MRI taken last Saturday, Batts said.
He was surprised to learn that the Connecticut Bureau of Elevators, a division of the Office of State Building Inspection, which falls under the Department of Administrative Services, has no record of the July 11 incident.
“How can that be?” Batts said. “Who’s supposed to report it?”
According to the state building code, the owner of an elevator must immediately report to the Department of Administrative Services any incident involving an elevator “that results in personal injury or death or presents a danger to life or property.”
The department may begin a full investigation to determine the cause of the accident within 48 hours of receiving a report, the code states.
But Lora Rae Anderson, spokesperson for the Department of Administrative Services, said in an email that the agency was not contacted.
“While this incident was not reported to us in July, we have followed up with the property manager to ensure they are aware they should report these incidents and safety risks immediately in the future,” Anderson said. “We have communicated with the owner regarding resolving the issue.”
A spokesman for Building and Land Technology, the developer that built and owns Allure, declined to be identified and would neither confirm nor deny details of the incident on the record.
“Both BLT and our elevator vendor have been in communication with the state and are not aware of any unresolved issues related to this incident,” the spokesman said.
He did not address whether Allure or BLT management reported the elevator incident, as the state requires.
A Freedom of Information Act request for a report on the incident, sent to the Stamford fire marshal’s office, resulted in this response from Executive Secretary Nancy Munoz:
“The Fire Marshal’s office is not involved with elevator inspections and/or operations. Therefore, we do not maintain any records of elevator malfunctions.”
Lauren Meyer, spokeswoman for Mayor Caroline Simmons, confirmed Wednesday that the Stamford Fire Department responded to an elevator call on July 11 at 850 Pacific St., the address of the Allure building.
Meyer said no one was taken to the hospital or treated for injuries.
Batts said he didn’t know he was hurt until the following morning.
“The physical therapist said it’s like when you get into a car accident and don’t feel it until the next day,” he said.
The CT Examiner receives repeated complaints from Stamford renters about broken or malfunctioning elevators in the city’s many apartment buildings.
But the state’s reporting system is convoluted and confusing.
According to the Bureau of Elevators website, Connecticut has 15,400 registered elevators that are inspected every 18 months. Bureau inspectors also witness required tests by state-licensed elevator contractors, and investigate accidents and complaints.
A call to the Bureau of Elevators gets you a recorded message that says complaints should be emailed to CT.firstname.lastname@example.org and, “if you are reporting an accident, call state police.”
State police, however, refer elevator complaints to the Office of State Building Inspection. A call to the building inspection office gets you a recorded message that says employees are working remotely so email your complaint to DAS.email@example.com.
Anderson said the Department of Administrative Services and the state “are deeply committed to the safety of all of our residents and encourage anyone with questions or safety concerns about elevators or escalators in their area to contact us.” The number in Hartford is (860) 713-5100.
The state building code mandates that each elevator owner obtain a certificate of operation that must be posted inside the elevator. It’s valid for 12 months, then must be renewed every two years for a $240 fee.
Any elevator deemed dangerous, or found to be operating without a certificate, can be shut down by the state, according to the code. It may operate again after it is repaired and the owner obtains permission from the state.
Violators are fined $250 for the first offense, the code states. Violators may be found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor for each subsequent offense.
Batts said he couldn’t work at his package delivery job for five weeks following the elevator incident at Allure. He had to return to work after that because, as an independent contractor, he doesn’t get paid unless he’s on the job, he said.
He has persistent pain that starts at the top of his head, runs along his left ear and down through his neck and waist, Batts said. Then “there’s this serious, serious pain in my back, between my shoulder blades,” he said.
“There’s not a day I don’t feel it,” the 60-year-old said.
He raised a different incident that occurred at Allure on Feb. 1, when a large slab of concrete fell from the patio into the parking garage. Neither Allure nor BLT management called the fire department for four hours. A BLT spokesman has said the developer brought in its contractors and engineers to secure the site instead.
Batts said he and his wife saw the collapse area from their balcony.
“I don’t want these things to affect my day-to-day life, how I get by,” Batts said. “But I’m questioning everything.”