Child traumatically injured in beach house elevator - myfoxcarolinas.com

FOX 5 I-Team Investigates

Child traumatically injured in beach house elevator

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BALTIMORE -

Another child has been seriously injured in a residential elevator accident. This is a warning for any family renting a beach house.

Nikki Nelson points to trophies, "Football. Soccer. Football again. Football. Basketball." 

But it was wrestling where this Baltimore mom says her 10-year-old son Jordan was a super star.

"He was also rookie of the year, so he has a huge plaque for that," she said grinning.

So, it was no surprise that during a Thanksgiving family reunion just south of Myrtle Beach, Jordan was out by the water playing sports.

"It started off a great day."

The Nelsons came in from Baltimore. And generations of family all stayed in a Murrells Inlet, multi-story rental house.  Ms. Nelson remembers that day clearly - a storm came rolling in and the family rushed back inside.

"We had lunch and Jordan and I were playing around in the kitchen," she said. 

Soon after, Nikki Nelson says Jordan hopped onto the rental home's elevator because there were no interior stairs that joined the two floors. The stairs were outside.

Her voice cracking and pausing, she recalled what happened.

"And, basically in a matter of moments, my whole world had been turned upside down. I started hearing screaming and...you know ...that's when I realized he was trapped in, ya know, he had been in an elevator accident."

Mom says that great day ended this way:  This class leader, super athlete, sweet brother, best friend, is a quadriplegic with catastrophic brain damage.

The family has filed a lawsuit claiming the manufacturer sold the unit "in a defective condition" then the home's owner and the rental management company failed to "conduct necessary inspections."

The family attorney, Andy Cash, explains what they believe happened last November inside that elevator.

"Unbeknownst to this family, that elevator ran with the accordion door open," said their Atlanta attorney who has taken on the cause of children injured in residential elevators.

Most home elevators have a main door, then a second gate that protects the rider from the elevator's working parts.

The Nelson's attorney believes home video shot by family on that trip shows the South Carolina rental's elevator operating without that safety door closed. 

"And Jordan puts his head out and essentially ends up wrapped around the elevator's car. When he's found by his family his head is under the elevator and his lower extremities - his legs and torso - are still inside the car. So, he's like a U wrapped around the elevator," said Mr. Cash.

I talked to Dunes Realty general manager Ryan Swaim who told me over the phone that to his knowledge the elevator had "never been inspected" because "the rules are vague." He says the company considers the rental home a residential property - not subject to inspection.

The South Carolina department that oversees inspections told the I-Team in an email that, "Any elevator that services more than a single dwelling unit would require permitting and annual inspection..."

Dunes Realty management has told the I-Team that the home was rented in the past as two separate units, but won't comment on what the state said.

The beach realty company boasts "over 900 rentals" many with elevators.

When I asked attorney Cash if he thought the elevator should have been inspected, he was clear, "Absolutely."

Every party involved in the lawsuit from the elevator manufacturer to the elevator repair company says they've done nothing wrong. The homeowner's response to the lawsuit blames the family saying Jordan "trespassed" by getting on the elevator "without ... adult supervision."

The Nelsons' attorney admits the sign inside the elevator says that it, "should be operated only by responsible adults," but that doesn't address the Nelsons' elevator safety concerns.

However it sorts out in court, the Nelson's new life is very clear.

"I just feel so, so helpless. Like I said, we were there. It's not like we ignored our children. We were right there in the house when it happened," said Nikki Nelson through tears. 

"It was just a matter of moments that I was giving him a hug and playing with him and watching him get on that elevator, to a moment later, my whole world had been turned upside down. And, literally, I was in this new Hell."


 

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