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Force, Weight Said Factors in Elevator Shaft Fall

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CHAPEL HILL — According to elevator safety inspectors,a sufficient amount of impact in the wrong place, combined with a freshman's body weight, sent her plunging down a dormitory elevator shaftover the weekend. The student fell from the eighth floor to the third.

In a four-page report, the inspectors said a thin safety latch at the bottom of an elevator door was popped when Evelyn Bankov, an 18-year-oldfrom Wilmington, was pushed into the doors. Her boyfriend, Thomas H.Suddarth, III, has been charged with assault for allegedly pushing Bankov,giving a malt beverage to an underage person and underage possession ofalcohol in connection with the incident.

Suddarth's attorney has said the couple had been engaged in horseplay,and that the fall was accidental.

Bankov is said to weigh about 200 pounds. The maximum amount ofpressure the elevator door can withstand is 250 pounds. Inspectors said that that weight combined with force could produce enough pressure to bendthe latch, and enable the door panel to open much like a pet door.

According to state records, the elevator passed its last inspection twomonths ago with no violations indicated.

The elevator was built in the 1960s. North Carolina's elevatorguidelines were revised three years ago, when all new elevators wererequired to withstand 1,125 pounds of pressure. Elevators alreadyinstalled were exempt from the new standards.

Bankov is reported in good condition at UNC Hospitals, where she isbeing treated for a broken leg, internal injuries and serious cuts. Shereportedly landed on her feet on the top of the elevator car, which hadbeen stopped at the second floor.

The accident occurred in Granville Tower East, a privately owneddormitory, just off the UNC-CH campus.

Henry Madenspacher, chief of the elevator bureau of the Department ofLabor, said incidents such as Bankov's were rare, even considering olderelevators and those in residence halls, where they can be subjected torigorous treatment.

There is a possibility that the warped door latch had been damagedbetween its November inspection and the time of the accident.

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