Victim's family mourns, probes continue into Metro escalator

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by ALLEN SCHAUFFLER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on April 12, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 12 at 10:32 PM

“It could have been anyone, but it was my son.”

David Bell said his family is still “in shock” and he's just trying to hold on and be strong. His son, Mauriceo Bell, 42, died last Sunday morning, apparently strangled by his own clothing which had gotten caught in an escalator in Seattle’s downtown Metro bus tunnel.

“It could have been anyone” he said.  “It could have been somebody who had a stroke or a heart attack or who just fell down.”

On Friday, KING 5 obtained surveillance video that shows the fatal fall, and the minutes that follow.

In it, you can see Bell start to wobble on the escalator before he falls down.  Passengers inside the downtown transit tunnel who viewed the video said it's hard to watch.  Equally disturbing, they say, is the fact that two people can be seen on camera, walking right past Bell on the ground without stopping to help.

"It's horrible, I would think our society is a little more evolved than that," said James Fischl.  "You know, I wonder if the people saw him there and that that maybe something else was going on with him."

The surveillance video shows that nearly 15 minutes passed by before someone ran to Bell's side, called 911, and started performing CPR.  By then, it was far too late.

Police later found a half empty bottle of brandy in Bell's pocket.  Even if he was drinking, most of the people KING 5 spoke with say he didn't deserve to be ignored during his final moments of life.

"If I saw somebody laying down, I would probably think they were drunk, but I would still try to tell someone, like there is always security people here in the big bright vests, so I'd probably tell them," said one passenger.

The state and King County are continuing their investigations into the incident. Meanwhile, KING 5 has found that particular escalator was not up-to-date on repairs and maintenance.

And it looks like that’s not the only escalator that has a bad history in terms of maintenance and repairs. The state Labor & Industries Department keeps track of 16,000 escalators and elevators in the state of Washington.

Mauriceo Bell happened to be riding “conveyance number 6502” early Sunday.  Surveillance video in the bus tunnel shows Bell’s last escalator ride. The video shows him staggering, leaning on the rail for support and towards the bottom, falling backwards. Bell died at the bottom of the escalator, strangled by his own clothing.

Checking inspection reports on the state Labor & Industries website, it appears Metro owns and operates 78 escalators and elevators. In almost every case, the reports show required repairs not completed and boxes that would signify the work has been done not checked off.

Some are weeks overdue, some months overdue. Some go back to 2011. KING 5 found only four out of 78 appeared to be up to date

Metro spokesperson Rochelle Ogershock says they’re looking into all of this.

“We want to learn all we can. This is clearly a tragic accident. We don’t recall it ever happening before. Safety is our number one priority,” Ogershock said.

Metro’s escalators and elevators are serviced by KONE, a company based in Finland with a local office in Redmond.

L &I says while they can’t confirm our numbers, they are aware there are problems and they are talking with KONE about maintenance and record keeping. Right now, L & I just can’t tell from those records what kind shape all those conveyances are in.

The one at least where Bell died won’t be moving until all repairs are made.

Bell was a father of four and “a good standup father,” his younger brother says, despite having a long record of run-ins with the law, mostly drug related. Police say they found a half-empty brandy bottle in his back pocket.

But his brother, who tearfully says he has lost his best friend in the world, has a message to anybody jumping to conclusions about Bell’s character or the circumstances of his death.

“No matter what you say about him, he paid taxes too. He should have been able to trust his transit system” he said. “And isn’t that what we’re supposed to do if we’re inebriated? Take the bus home? Take transit?” 

So far the family is too broken up about the death to appear on camera.  They are not talking about whether they plan any legal action.

As for the repair history of all the Metro escalators, the state, the county and the contractor are all trying to figure out what’s been done and when, and why there seemed to be so many problems in the record keeping on all this.

 

KING 5's Liza Javier contributed to this report.
 

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