WILKES-BARRE — An elevator at the Luzerne County prison involved in the recent deaths of an inmate and corrections officer remains out of commission due to ongoing inspections, said county Manager C. David Pedri.
A criminal investigation concluded the fifth-floor elevator door at the Water street prison immediately gave way at the base July 18 when inmate Timothy Darnell Gilliam Jr., 27, fell backwards and hit the elevator door, pulling corrections officer Kristopher D. Moules, 25, with him.
Investigators determined the door swung out into the elevator shaft as if hinged at the top, even though the elevator is designed with a single door that is only supposed to slide laterally. The two disappeared into the shaft, with Gilliam still pulling Moules, and the door swung immediately closed behind them.
Pedri said repairs can’t proceed because an outside expert retained by the county and other experts are still examining the elevator. The other experts were brought in by companies that have completed work on the elevator in recent years in case any litigation is filed in connection with the deaths, Pedri said.
The men fell 59 feet and 1 inch from the fifth floor to the top of the elevator car, which was stationary on the ground floor, and both died of multiple traumatic injuries, investigators said.
Pedri promised to publicly release the county expert’s findings and implement any recommended corrective action.
Operating the facility with the remaining elevator has been “very difficult,” he said.
“We want to allow all involved a chance to complete reviews, but we have to fix this elevator as soon as possible,” Pedri said.
The repairs will be based on the recommendation of the county’s expert consultant, Richard A. Kennedy and Associates of West Chester, Pedri said.
An inmate lockdown imposed after the deaths has since been lifted, Pedri said.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.