9/22/2014

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Man strangled by his shirt after falling on Seattle escalator

Man strangled by his shirt after falling on Seattle escalator
SEATTLE -- A 42-year-old man died of strangulation early Sunday morning when his shirt became caught in a downtown escalator.

Police say Maurecio Bell was found unconscious at 5:30 a.m. at the base of an escalator inside the University Station bus terminal at 3rd Avenue and Seneca Street.

A good Samaritan tried to pull him from the still-moving escalator, but wasn't able to. That man then pushed the emergency stop button, called 911 and began performing CPR on Bell, according to a police report.

Police and medics arrived moments later and were able to free Bell from the the jaws of the escalator, but he was already dead.

Surveillance video shows Bell "stagger" onto the escalator just before 5:20 a.m., according to police. After riding roughly three quarters of the way down, police say Bell lost his balance and fell onto his back.

When he reached the bottom, police say his shirt appeared to get snagged in the escalator. The video shows him struggling to get free, but he stops moving moments later.

It's unclear if Bell was intoxicated at the time of the accident, but police say they found an open bottle of brandy in his back pocket.

The state Department of Labor and Industries is investigating the incident and the escalator is out of service for repairs.

Dave Wasser with Labor and Industries said the same escalator has had issues dating back to December.

"Our folks went there, did the inspection and found out that these things had not been done," he said.

Records show parts of the escalator needed to be cleaned. There were also issues with the stop switch buzzer and a lack of proper lighting.

The state gave an extension to fix the problems from December to late March, just a week and a half before the accident.

"They're all safety-related issues that had not been addressed," Wasser said.

The state has 16,000 escalators and elevators, but only 22 inspectors.

Metro's Jeff Switzer said crews should have the escalator repaired by Monday, but finding out exactly what happened my take much longer.

"It's a really unfortunate accident," he said. "It's a tragic accident that happened."

Metro says it will inspect all 40 escalators in the downtown area as a safety precaution.
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