Infant falls to death when stroller tumbles down elevator shaft in New York

CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn - A 6-week-old girl died after falling down an elevator shaft in Coney Island on Thursday morning, according to PIX11.

Areej Ali's mother was waiting for the elevator on the 23rd floor in a building on Neptune Avenue about 10:30 a.m., police said. When the elevator doors opened, she pushed the stroller forward, but didn't realize the elevator car wasn't there.

The 21-year-old mother and her baby fell into the elevator shaft, together plunging six stories to the top of the elevator car on the 17th floor, police said.

Both were rushed to the hospital, but the baby died later that day. The mother was treated for her injuries.

"It touches your heart," Rodney Knight, a neighbor, told PIX11 News. "Such a young life lost. It's a hurtful feeling."

Multiple complaints have been filed with the Buildings Department in the last 2-and-a-half decades about the Sea Rise 11 apartments, billed as an affordable housing complex that is privately run, records show. Elevators in the building were not working twice in September.

The elevator passed inspections in January 2016, according to sources at the Buildings Department. It was also examined on Aug. 8, but inspectors said the elevator could safely remain in operation.

Residents told PIX11 News Thursday they have been complaining for years about broken elevators at the complex.

"After all these years, we've had repeated reports of the problems," Pete Castro, a neighbor, told PIX11 News. "When the elevator isn't working, the doors shouldn't open. Why can't they figure it out."

Some longtime residents and visitors to the apartment building said the tragedy reminded them of one that happened in 1997 at a building in the same complex next door to where Ali died.

In August of that year, a 24-year-old man fell to his death in an apartment elevator shaft when he leaned against broken elevator doors on the 15th floor.

"Here it is, repeating itself," Knight said. "How many lives have to be lost before they fix the elevators?"

A representative for an elevator workers' union said Thursday's tragedy should be a wake up call and said there are immediate changes that could prevent this from happening yet again.

Elevator repair workers are not currently required to have any licensing in New York. A bill to require licensing of people involved in elevator construction and maintenance is in discussion in the New York State Senate.

"This horrible and unfortunate death of an innocent child is yet another example of the need for greater accountability throughout New York's elevator industry," said Mike Halpin, an organizer for the International Union of Elevator Construction Local 1.

"Today's tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for Albany to finally act and bring increased safety to the millions of New Yorkers who ride elevators each and every day."

Repeated calls to the management office of Sea Rise 11 went unanswered.

Inspectors from the Buildings Department will be remaining on scene to conduct a full investigation, a department spokesman said. They'll be testing all of the elevators.