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Woman killed in Allston elevator accident was trapped in doorway

1140 Commonwealth Ave. in Boston.
1140 Commonwealth Ave. in Boston.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff


The elevator at 1140 Commonwealth Ave. in Allston.
The elevator at 1140 Commonwealth Ave. in Allston.Leanne Scorzoni

The Boston University lecturer killed Monday in an elevator accident inside her Allston apartment building had become trapped in a first-floor doorway, leading to her death, according to a police report.

The report, obtained by the Globe through a public records request, said Carrie O’Connor was “trapped in the doorway of the first floor and the elevator” when officers arrived at 1140 Commonwealth Ave. around 5:15 p.m.

O’Connor, 38, was declared dead at the scene.

Investigators removed her mattress and frame from the building. Neighbors said O’Connor had been carrying something heavy before she became trapped.

Her death was caused by traumatic asphyxia and is considered accidental, police said.

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State officials have jurisdiction over elevator inspections in Massachusetts.

Carrie O’Connor was a lecturer in French at Boston University.
Carrie O’Connor was a lecturer in French at Boston University.

Records provided Wednesday by the state Department of Professional Licensure show the elevator was last inspected on March 26 and a 60-day notice was issued to fix a stop switch. The notice stated that failure to submit proof of repairs within that span could result in “the unit being shut down.”

However, records show that the company Commonwealth Elevator certified on April 22 that the necessary repairs had been made, completing the annual inspection. The elevator’s current certificate is valid through Mar. 31, records show.

A call to Commonwealth Elevator wasn’t immediately returned.

During a 2017 inspection, records show, a 60-day notice was issued to fix the emergency light and bell and “machine room lighting." The repairs were completed, records show.

An inspection scheduled for April 3, 2018, was postponed when the inspector ran out of time but later completed on May 31 of that year, according to a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

The Division of Professional Licensure continues to investigate, the agency said. Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office is also investigating.

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City records show the residence was built in 1920, though the age of the elevator wasn’t clear Wednesday.

Leanne Scorzoni, a tenant in the building, said she spoke Monday night with a man who had been helping O’Connor moments before her death.

Scorzoni, who was working from home at the time of the accident, said she heard the sound of a heavy object being moved, and the voice of a man telling O’Connor to be careful.

"He was walking up the staircase and was just talking to her. And he just said, 'Oh, I don’t think that’s going to fit in there.’ And then she’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll try it one more time,’ " Scorzoni recalled. “And then I heard her screaming, and I heard him screaming.”

“It was horrifying,” she said.

Scorzoni said the elevator has a heavy door and an accordion grate that must be opened before entering.

"The ‘cage’ all around the elevator car is see-through, which is how the gentleman walking up the stairs could see down the elevator shaft and see the woman in peril,” she said.

Scorzoni, who has lived in the building with her husband for a year and a half, said she had not had any issues with the elevator or heard anyone say they were worried about using it.

“However, when the cage stops at different floors, it does not always line up seamlessly [and] you have to slightly step up to get out,” she said. “This can definitely feel springy and unnerving.”

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“I would not say that it feels dangerous or broken, but I will say it feels as if you’re riding in an antique. It’s not always a good feeling,” she added.

Attempts to reach the listed owner of the building were unsuccessful.

The death of O’Connor, a lecturer in French at BU, stunned family and colleagues, who remembered her love for the French language and world travel.

A senior lecturer in the BU Romance Studies department, Katherine Lakin-Schultz, said Wednesday that O’Connor was a dear friend.

“She was the kind of colleague that you could trust so deeply and she made our jobs easier and more enjoyable with her steady presence and collaboration," Lakin-Schultz said in a statement released by BU. "She was incredibly professional, generous with her time and ideas, smart, stalwart, kind and funny. She was such a bright light among us and we are heartbroken that her time here was cut so very short.”

O’Connor’s family could not be reached for comment. In an interview with BU Today, the university’s official news site, O’Connor’s mother, Christal O’Connor, said her daughter was an avid traveler.

“She said you shouldn’t be able to graduate college without traveling,” she said. “I don’t even know all the different countries she’s been to.”

Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.