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Accidents

Horrific Wheelchair Death At Hollywood Metro Stop; Leaders Fume Over Response

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Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 7:09 AM
click to enlarge MARC EVANS / FLICKR
  • Marc Evans / Flickr

A woman confined to a wheelchair experienced a tragic and horrific death in the subway stop beneath the Hollywood & Highland Center this week.

The woman and an assistant used an ascending escalator because an elevator was out of service, a Metro official said. Both fell, and the 60-year-old in the wheelchair ultimately succumbed to her injuries. The accident, witnessed by many, we were told, happened Tuesday about noon. But we're only hearing about it now:

In fact, the Weekly found out that some Metro board members are furious about the lack of immediate information.


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Metro did not issue a press release and even its board, the L.A. transportation system's ultimate boss, was not notified of the woman's death until 6 p.m. Wednesday, apparently.

The woman died at a hospital Wednesday morning, Metro spokeswoman Gayle Anderson told the Weekly. She said Metro doesn't normally issue press releases for these kinds of incidents.

Interestingly, Metro CEO Arthur T. Leahy came across the accident after it happened -- with the victim splayed and bleeding on the ground as paramedics worked on her -- on his way to a Metro-sponsored transportation conference at an adjacent hotel but apparently decided not to stick around because first-responders were on the case, the Weekly has learned.

Among those unhappy with the authority's response was a board member's transportation deputy, who wrote in an email that "Art [Leahy] can't allow stranded folks to remain underground" and added:

click to enlarge DJJEWELZ / FLICKR
  • djjewelz / Flickr

It was only a matter of time before something tragic like this happened ... It's just plain unacceptable.

Metro's Anderson says an investigation into the accident was underway and that the board would be apprised not only of conclusions but of ongoing findings.

She said that passengers were warned in English and Spanish that the elevator on the mezzanine level was out of service and that, under normal protocol, would have been given some direction about what to do, such as continuing to the next stop, using an elevator there, and then taking a bus back to their destination.

Digital TV-like displays also warned of the outage, she said.

It wasn't clear if the elevator was broken or if it was taken offline for maintenance.

The woman and her assistant were "facing up, going up" when they apparently fell backward an unknown number of feet to the bottom, Anderson said:

It's just a cautionary tale. It's not an option to put a wheelchair with a person in it on the escalator. It's just a tragic situation.

The elevator, by the way, went back into service that same day.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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