7Investigates: Faulty elevators may put lives at risk

BOSTON (WHDH) - Robert Kulunis still remembers his brother Randall’s singing.

“He had a powerful voice. He was an artist.”

When they were younger, the brothers started the Boston Opera Company– Robert composed the music- and Randall brought it to life.

But in May, Randall’s voice was silenced.

He suffered a heart attack in his Boston condo. The EMT’s used this elevator in his building to get him to the ambulance-

But once inside — the elevator stalled!

Boston EMS radio call recorded that night states-

“Paramedic 16 is stuck in the elevator with a cardiac arrest.”

–“On my way”

Randall and two paramedics needed to be rescued!

One witness says the elevator was stuck for 29 minutes.

He died that later night. Robert thinks his brother might have survived if he had made it to the hospital quicker.

“Yes, I think the elevator was dysfunctional, had never been repaired properly,” said Kulunis.

7News obtained inspection documents from the state Board of Elevator Regulations. The elevator passed an inspection in March of this year- two months before Randall and the EMT’s got stuck.

We then asked the Boston Fire Department for records of elevator rescues at the property- and what we found was astounding-

In the past two years- the Boston Fire was called to rescue people from a stalled elevator at Randall’s building 7 times. And the state elevator board was never notified.

“Why is this possible?” said Kulunis

Massachusetts General Law requires any elevator failure be reported to the state. An inspector is then sent to determine the cause of the problem – and make sure the elevator is properly fixed.

But just two weeks before the incident involving Randall, an elevator in the same building failed.

No one ever reported that earlier failure to the state so an inspector was never sent to investigate.

“We definitely have a system that needs to be reviewed and examined,” said State Senator Michael Moore, chair of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

When we talked to building management, they said- they were unaware the incident needed to be reported. And these documents show the state never notified building management about the law.

“We have to ensure that the state, the board, notifies the owner of their responsibilities,” said Senator Moore. And our investigation found several Massachusetts buildings with elevator issues. In Lowell- firefighters were called to this building 6 times this year to rescue people from a stalled elevator.

“It’s not right. It’s wrong. I feel bad for everybody in the building, there’s people in wheelchairs that can never get out of this building,” said one resident.

In Chelsea – the fire department responded 6 times in one month to pull people from a stalled elevator at this high rise.

“People are petrified! — they don’t know if they’re going to get stuck or not,” said one resident

And in July, this elevator in Boston caught fire! One person had to be rescued.

The state board has no records of any of these incidents.

“The public is trusting these people to do, what they’re licensed to do…I think there’s a problem with the concept of fiduciary duty when it comes to these boards,” said Kulunis

After 7News made the state elevator board aware of these problems, they issued this statement–

“Elevator owners, operators, and technicians must report unsafe conditions to the office of public safety and inspections so they can be addressed. We will continue to work with public and private sector partners to ensure that all parties are aware of this requirement….”

As for Robert, he will always have questions about the night his brother was trapped.

“Was it just mechanical failure, which could happen — or was it negligence on the part of the inspector or repair person?

Was it faulty equipment- I don’t know,” said Kulunis

As a result of our investigation, the Joint Committee on Public Safety at the State House is researching ways for elevator failures to be reported and inspected in a timely manner.

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