Luzerne County received clearance Thursday to repair the prison elevator linked to the July deaths of an inmate and correctional officer.
County Court of Common Pleas Judge William H. Amesbury had issued an order in August barring repairs after Schindler Elevator Corp. initiated a court action seeking preservation of the elevator until an inspection could be arranged to secure evidence that may be needed for potential future litigation involving the deaths.
Schindler had been involved in the elevator’s maintenance. Other parties also intervened in the court action and requested inspections, according to court records: elevator installer Otis Elevator Company; Nagle Elevator Inspections & Testing LLC, which may have inspected the subject elevator; and representatives of the deceased.
Inmates at the prison on Water Street in Wilkes-Barre were placed on lockdown Jan. 4 as around 25 inspectors, attorneys and videographers examined the elevator.
Amesbury lifted the order on Thursday at the county’s request, and there were no objections, said county Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo.
As of Thursday, no litigation has been filed over the deaths, Crocamo said.
The prison’s fifth-floor elevator door immediately gave way at the base July 18 when inmate Timothy Darnell Gilliam Jr., 27, fell backward and hit the elevator door, pulling 25-year-old prison corrections officer Kristopher D. Moules with him, a criminal investigation concluded.
The men fell 59 feet and 1 inch from the fifth floor to the top of the elevator car, which was stationary on the ground floor, and both died of multiple traumatic injuries, officials have said.
The elevator, which services five floors and a ground level, was deemed inoperable until repairs are made, the state Department of Labor and Industry decided after the deaths.
The county prison elevator had a valid state inspection certificate at the time of the deaths, county officials have said.
With one of two prison elevators out of commission, prison workers have struggled to deliver meals and move inmates, said county Manager C. David Pedri.
“I’m happy we’re able to move forward with repairs. It’s been a difficult burden on the prison staff to only have one elevator,” Pedri said.
The county has retained KONE Inc., based in Moline, Illinois, to develop an elevator repair plan. The company must submit proposed repairs to the state labor department and obtain a state building permit, Crocamo said.
Pedri said he does not yet have a cost repair estimate or a plan outlining the work that will be completed. KONE was selected for its expertise and because it has not performed work on county elevators in the past, he said.
“We wanted to bring in someone new,” he said. “We’re looking to move forward quickly on these repairs.”
Stephen Carr, a forensic elevator expert from California who holds a doctorate in engineering and computer sciences, told the Times Leader in July he believes the malfunction stemmed from a problem with the devices called “gibs” that keep the bottoms of elevator doors in their tracks.
Gibs that are loose, old or worn can give way under pressure and swing in and out at the bottom like dog doors, Carr has said.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.