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- A 30-year-old New York resident was killed by a high-rise elevator August 22 when it fell unexpectedly as he was stepping out of it, crushing him between floors.
- Although elevator-related deaths are tragic, they’re extremely rare – you’re more likely to be killed by a bear or in a bathtub.
- In fact, elevators are “one of the safest forms of travel” and less dangerous than stairs, according to one spokesperson.
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As a 30-year-old man stepped out onto the first floor of his New York City high-rise apartment building Thursday morning, a notoriously unreliable elevator unexpectedly fell, pinning his body between floors and crushing him to death.
The tragedy prompted an investigation from the city’s Department of Buildings, the New York Times reported, as well as questions about how and how often this happens from people who heard the news.
Truth is, while freak accidents like deaths by elevator loom large in the media, they’re extremely rare. You’re actually more likely to die taking the stairs.
Elevators are responsible for an estimated 27 deaths a year in the United States, and approximately 10,000 injuries, according to the Center for Construction Research and Training. The vast majority of these involve maintenance workers installing or repairing elevators or working near an elevator shaft.
For passengers, there have been an average of about five deaths per year, according to the data. That’s out of over 18 billion elevator trips a year, according to Consumer Watch.
Your odds of being killed by an elevator are about 1 in 10 million, according to one life insurance company. You’re more likely to be killed by a bear, according to the same company. And it’s nearly 10 times more likely you’ll die in your bathtub – an average of one American per day drowns in the tub, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Falls are the most common cause of elevator-related deaths
More than half of all elevator-related deaths are caused by falls, according to the Center for Construction Research and Training.
This is occasionally from malfunctions in which elevators plummet unexpectedly while carrying passengers, slamming them into the walls, the ceiling, or floor. It also includes people tumbling into empty elevator shafts, sometimes from prying open the closed doors to break into the shaft, or to climb out of a stuck elevator.
Other incidents have involved the doors opening onto an empty shaft. One New Yorker was killed this way after he tried to carry a refrigerator onto an elevator but stepped into the empty shaft.
Being crushed between floors by an elevator has accounted for only about 18% of elevator-related deaths since 1992.
Elevators are still safer than taking the stairs, which cause about 1,600 deaths per year
More than 1 million Americans are injured by taking the stairs annually, and it’s not just the elderly, Reuters reported, based on data from American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
These aren’t just harmless trips: Over 1,000 people die from stair-related injuries each year, LiveScience reported. Falls can be deadly by causing broken bones, concussions, and other head or brain injuries, particularly if you fall sideways, according to the CDC.
If you’re otherwise healthy, however, don’t forego the stairs just yet, as they are still, by and large, safe, and can be a quick source of exercise. Research has shown that moving your body throughout the day has all kinds of health benefits like better mood, improved sleep, and lower blood pressure.
New York City has the most elevators of any city in the US but this is the first time a passenger has died in one since 2016
There are about 63,000 passenger elevators in New York City making an average of 35 million trips per day, according to Curbed New York, which is more than the passenger elevators of Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Miami combined.
“Elevators are the safest form of travel in New York due to the city’s stringent inspection and safety requirements,” Abigail Kunitz, a spokeswoman at the city’s Buildings Department, said in a statement, according to the New York Times.
The Times also reported that the last time a passenger died because of an elevator was in 2016, although two city workers have been killed by elevators in the past two years.
The last high-profile death by an elevator in New York City was in 2011, when an advertising executive was crushed by an elevator that suddenly jolted upward.
That incident prompted a new Buildings Department policy that required door-lock systems in all city elevators to prevent the elevator from moving if doors are open, according to the Times.