City Shuts Down Baggage Elevators at Airport

DAYTON - Because of a May 16 accident at Dayton International Airport in which a Pinnacle Airlines employee was killed, the city has closed 20 baggage elevators for an indefinite time.

The city, which owns the airport, has shut down the elevators as a precaution until it receives recommendations from the two manufacturers of the elevators about what should be done to ensure that the devices can be safely operated, city spokesman Tom Biedenharn said Thursday. There is no timetable for when the elevators will be returned to service, he said.

"We're being duly, and overly, cautious until we can make a decision on how to proceed with those," Biedenharn said.

The elevators are used to move carry-on baggage of passengers boarding or departing regional jets at the airport. For now, baggage handlers are moving that luggage by stairs.

Baggage handler Catrina Coffman, 21, of Harrison Twp., was killed in May while trying to remove luggage jammed in the elevator. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated and concluded that Coffman's employer, Pinnacle Airlines, had failed to train employees in safety procedures to ensure that any powered machinery they serviced would first be disconnected from electricity sources.

The Montgomery County coroner ruled that Coffman's death was an accident, and that she died of asphyxiation due to mechanical chest compression and blunt force injury to the torso.

Pinnacle agreed to pay a $7,000 federal fine and provide the employee safety training by Aug. 31. That training has been provided, according to Pinnacle, OSHA and the United Steelworkers, a union representing the Pinnacle employees. Pinnacle flies from Dayton under the brand of Northwest Airlines.

OSHA did not order the shutdown of the baggage elevators but considers that a prudent action under the circumstances, said Bill Wilkerson, OSHA's assistant area director in the Cincinnati regional office. The employee safety training should be provided to workers at the other elevator sites if those devices are serviced and returned to operation, Wilkerson said.

The city spokesman said the 20 baggage elevators were made by two Texas-based manufacturers, Jet Bridge Technology Inc. and FMC Technologies Inc. OSHA said Jet Bridge Technology manufactured the elevator involved in the fatal accident. There has been no finding against Jet Bridge, Wilkerson said.

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