Detectives are investigating after a worker fell 30 feet to his death at a downtown Seattle business on Sunday, July 31st. Chris Kitzhaber, 48, was a worker at the Avis rental car facility on 5th Avenue. Emergency responders extricated him from the elevator shaft and performed CPR, but were unable to save his life.
According to Kitzhaber’s family, he had expressed concerns about the safety of the site to his relatives. Kitzhaber had previously mentioned to his wife that the service elevator he had to use for work seemed unsafe. He even took a picture, showing a handle and ladder against a wall and a heavy-duty platform that appears to be suspended by a rope. Jeremy Kitzhaber, the victim’s brother, told reporters, “It’s just a round cement hole and it’s just a foot platform that you would stand on. There’s no safety railing that I could see around it.”
Normally, elevators are designed with thick cables and safety brakes that engage automatically if they begin to drop down the shaft too quickly; plunges causing injuries or deaths in properly designed and maintained elevators are extremely rare. Seattle police examined the site compared the design of the “single person elevator” to a dumbwaiter. Dumbwaiters lack many of the safety protections of elevators because they are designed to carry small loads of food or other household items, not people. They are generally supported by a rope on the top and lack features like brakes.
Kitzhaber had moved with his wife and children to Renton, Washington just two weeks before his fatal fall. A GoFundMe fund has been set up to help Kitzhaber’s family to pay for his funeral expenses.
Image: An elevator shaft with modern safety features. This is not an image of the job site where Kitzhaber fell. Image source: Wikimedia Commons