Police raided locations Wednesday linked to Tokyo-based elevator maker Schindler Elevator K.K. and a housing corporation, suspecting that professional negligence or poor maintenance caused the fatal crushing of a teenager on a lift last weekend.
The accident in which high school student Hirosuke Ichikawa, 16, died Saturday happened when an elevator in a Minato Ward condominium building went up with its doors open. Ichikawa was caught between the elevator and the frame, police said.
He suffered a fractured skull and died soon after being taken to a hospital.
Police searched the elevator firm in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, the Minato Ward government office, the public housing corporation in the ward that manages the complex and two elevator maintenance companies.
The transport ministry also ordered local governments Wednesday to inspect more than 7,000 elevators manufactured by Schindler and report any accidents related to the firm’s lifts.
According to a Kyodo News survey, at least 265 accidents involving Schindler elevators were reported in Japan from 1999 to this month. Of them, 136 cases took place in Tokyo.
Troubles with the same elevator type were also reported outside Tokyo, including 10 cases at the Miyagi Prefectural Library in Sendai.
Residential buildings developed by semigovernmental housing companies in Yokohama, Nagoya and Rito, Shiga Prefecture, as well as the Fukuoka municipal subway system also reported incidents involving the elevator model, the companies and subway operator said.
Schindler Elevator K.K. is part of the Switzerland-based Schindler Holding AG group. It is located in Koto Ward.
Ken Smith, representative director of the firm’s Japanese unit, expressed confidence in the safety of its elevators in a statement posted on the Schindler Elevator Web site.
The firm “would like to stress that we are convinced there is no reason to attribute the accident to either the design or the installation of the elevator,” Smith said in the statement.
Seventy-six problems were reported due to poor maintenance, including a case in which dirt got into the groove under an elevator door. Fifty cases were due to malfunctions of the elevators, the housing corporation claimed.
However, until Saturday’s accident, there were no reports of an elevator moving with its doors still open, it said.
The Yokohama City Housing Supply Corp. said Schindler elevator malfunctions were reported in six of its residential buildings from January 2005 to last month.
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