State encounters ‘conflicting information’ while investigating elevator malfunction

An investigation is underway after an elevator malfunction at Kalanimoku Building sent a woman to the hospital.

Emergency responders say a 25-year-old woman got stuck in an elevator at the state building, a base for departments such as Land and Natural Resources and Accounting and General Services.

The incident happened on May 10. Emergency Medical Services public information officer Dustin Malama said the elevator dropped about three feet, and the woman was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

Government accidents are reported to Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health (HIOSH), a division of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

“There was a report of someone trapped in an elevator. The elevator maintenance company (Kone) was called immediately. They came, assisted the woman out of the elevator. There is an investigation ongoing to find out exactly what transpired,” said director Linda Chu Takayama.

The details are hazy.

“We would want to know when and how it occurred, who was present at the time, and what determinations were made at that time,” Chu Takayama said. “It’s not clear, and we do have some conflicting information about it. We need to look into further and make sure we know what the facts are.”

We learned the Department of Accounting and General Services reported the incident over a week later.

“Was proper protocol followed?” KHON2 asked.

“That’s part of the investigation that we’re looking at,” Chu Takayama replied. “If there is a real question about the safe operation of the elevator, or if someone was seriously injured, we would want to know that.”

The Department of Labor says maintaining elevators in state buildings is a contract job. Elevator company Kone currently maintains the elevators at Kalanimoku Building.

Days after our initial request, KHON2 finally obtained a copy of the elevator operating permit. The permit is temporary, but the Department of Labor says it’s for a reason.

Takayama says the elevator was last inspected in November 2016 and was found to be in in good operating condition.

Though the permit expired in January, the state is waiting to re-issue in mid-July.

“It’s due in mid-July for a load test. This is something that’s required by industry standards, very routine,” said Chu Takayama.

When asked of the safety of the elevators at Kalanimoku Buiding, Chu Takayama replied, “We did have a little concern about that and had a discussion with the director in the building over there. I guess we weren’t aware of this level of concern. I believe they’re going to send a message to employees to let them know the elevator was inspected and deemed safe. Hopefully that will allay their fears.”

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