State leader responds to I-Team home elevator investigation

State leader responds to I-Team home elevator investigation

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTA, Ga. -

Residential elevators are in many newer homes. They're not just for the rich. With an aging population and houses built up, not out, elevators are becoming more common.

The convenience could pose a dangerous risk for children. What the FOX5 I-Team uncovered was so alarming the insurance commissioner said he wants to do something.

Georgia State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said what happened to toddler Jacob Helvey should not happen to another child.

The Helveys had a residential elevator installed for an elderly, live-in relative who couldn't manage the stairs. They loved it until Christmas Eve four years ago. Jacob Helvey's day started with playing, thinking of santa, but it ended with brain damage after he was crushed by the family's home elevator.

Brandi Helvey ran upstairs and in that short time, Jacob opened the elevator's hallway door and got in, but he never opened the cab's accordion gate. So this left him trapped between the two doors.

The family believes the toddler was crushed once the elevator started moving.

Brandi ran downstairs - pulled open the locked elevator door in the hallway to find her toddler trapped. The family says they assumed like a commercial elevator it wouldn't move if there was a problem.

Insurance commissioner Ralph Hudgens plans to get a message to families with home elevators. "We're going to send a personal letter from me to each of the homeowners" Hudgens said in an exclusive interview. 

"We're going to ask them to go to your link and view this story that you have on your web site regarding the safety of elevators" Hudgens added. 

Meantime, the state's residential elevator committee plans to strategize about how to keep children out of the space between the two doors.

At the top of the list for critics is the gap between the hallway and accordion doors. It's wider than most safety codes designed with children in mind - like the ones for stair spindles and crib slats.

The national standard for residential elevators is five inches. An 8-year-old boy in New England slid into a similarly sized gap and was killed.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers sets the standard for this space. According to an engineer formerly with ASME, the non-profit group talked for years about closing that gap but still hasn't.

The I-team has asked repeatedly for ASME to talk about why its group, filled with industry insiders, maintains the five-inch gap. We are repeatedly told "..no comment."

Meantime, the Helveys had a space guard made, cheaply, to attach to the hallway door so that no one, much less a child, can fit into the space.

The company that sold the Helvey's elevator calls this a "tragic accident", not "faulty design." The company ultimately settled a lawsuit with the Helveys. This issue has now captured the attention of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has launched its own investigation.

In the meantime, the commission is warning parents to be aware that residential elevators can be a "very serious hazard."

  • I-Team Story ArchiveMore>>

  • Legal ethics expert: Crisis of Public Confidence

    Legal ethics expert: Crisis of Public Confidence

    Thursday, July 24 2014 10:43 PM EDT2014-07-25 02:43:53 GMT
    The Georgia State Professor of Law and Ethics says Georgia citizens are facing a crisis of public confidence due to the unfolding drama at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.
    The Georgia State Professor of Law and Ethics says Georgia citizens are facing a crisis of public confidence due to the unfolding drama at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.
  • Credit Cards v Charge Cards

    Credit Cards v Charge Cards

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 7:48 AM EDT2014-07-23 11:48:23 GMT
    You always hear that it's a great idea to get rid of your credit cards, but sometimes it really is the best way to pay. So here's another option: charge cards.
    You always hear that it's a great idea to get rid of your credit cards, but sometimes it really is the best way to pay. So here's another option: charge cards.
  • FOX 5 I-Team Investigates

    Child traumatically injured in beach house elevator

    Child traumatically injured in beach house elevator

    Monday, July 21 2014 8:09 AM EDT2014-07-21 12:09:54 GMT
    Another child has been seriously injured in a residential elevator accident. This is a warning for any family renting a beach house.
    Another child has been seriously injured in a residential elevator accident. This is a warning for any family renting a beach house.
  • Contact the FOX 5 I-Team

    * denotes required fields

    We're sorry, but only one entry is allowed per person.
    Thank you for your continued interest.

    Thanks for contacting FOX 5.  To reach our newsroom by phone, please call (404) 898-0100.

Powered by WorldNow

4739 NW 53rd Avenue, Sutie B
Gainesville, FL 32653

Phone: (352) 371-0051

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices