A lift technician who died in 2016 was crushed by a lift car in a tragic accident because safety checks were not properly implemented, a coroner has ruled.
Brendon Scheib was killed while repairing a lift in the old Harcourt's building at 28 Grey St, Wellington, in January 2016.
It's believed he went into the lift pit at the bottom of the lift shaft to inspect the bottom floor lock, but he was crushed when the lift car descended.
Coroner Tim Scott has now ruled Scheib died from neck and chest injuries and crush asphyxia, which were unsurvivable even if a rescue effort had begun earlier.
Scott said that, because Scheib was working alone, it was impossible to say for sure what went wrong.
But there were two likely scenarios on the evidence available. The first was that Scheib decided to take a risk that he would only be in the lift pit for a short time, so only activated one of two safety switches to disable the lift cars.
The second was that he believed both safety switches were activated, when only one was. The coroner noted that the pit switches did not have any marking or visible ways to show if they were active or inactive, and that the top switch had to be pushed twice to activate, while the second had to be pushed once.
The lifts were installed in 1928.
Coroner Scott noted that Scheib was a very experienced technician, who had been working for Otis for 27 years.
In that time he came to be regarded as a careful and conscientious worker, with only two recorded workplace injuries, one in 1992 and another in 1995.
The coroner stated that if either safety switch was activated it would stop the lift car, but not instantly.
In his report he said Scheib may have activated the single safety switch when he realised at the last minute that the car was descending. Or it may have been pushed when the lift machinery descended, and pushed Scheib's body against the switch.
The coroner has ruled out the lift being used by a person, as causing Scheib's death.
While the lift had been used that day, it was not during the times that Scheib was working in the lift pit. The person would also have been trapped in the lift car, which stopped above the lobby floor.
Scott said even if someone had pushed the button to call the lift, they would have realised something was wrong, and called for help.
He ruled that the lift most likely descended because it was automatically repositioning itself at the ground floor.
Scott offered his condolences to all members of the Scheib family, and said it was obvious he was a much loved and respected man, who was sadly missed by his family.
Scheib was killed while repairing the lift, with a lone worker alarm activating at 5.29pm and alerting Otis that there was a problem.
He was found dead by a co-worker, having been crushed between the lift car and shaft.
WorkSafe investigated and found it was likely Scheib either thought he had engaged the top pit switch when he hadn't, or had knocked it accidentally, causing the lift to restart. It found nobody was at fault, including Scheib's employer Otis.
But his family kept fighting and in March this year the coronial inquest was held to determine whether Otis could have done anything to prevent the tragedy.