A maintenance man at a prominent western New York office building was crushed to death after falling into a trash compactor, but no one realized it for weeks as his family and authorities searched for him, police said Sunday.
Surveillance video shows John Adams tumbled into a compactor while working at the One Niagara building, and the mechanism "prevented him from being able to escape and made it impossible for co-workers or others to realize what had occurred," Niagara Falls, N.Y., police said in a release.
Adams, 67, was last seen picking up garbage on the night of July 4. Owners of the building, which houses a welcome center for visitors to the famous falls, had offered a $1,500 reward for information on Adams' whereabouts. His family had papered the area with signs seeking information.
"We were wondering for three weeks: 'Where is he?"' his sister, Evie Shepherd, said by telephone Sunday. She questioned why police apparently hadn't consulted the videotapes earlier in the search for Adams.
"He wouldn't have been (found) living, but it would have been a lot easier" on the family, Shepherd said.
Police couldn't immediately say Sunday when they had received or reviewed the videotape.
Representatives for the building didn't immediately respond to an e-mail message, but building president Tony Farina told the Niagara Gazette that building officials didn't examine the video until Friday night because an initial police search of the compactor turned up no conclusive evidence of Adams' remains.
"It was a very startling and tragic discovery," Farina told the newspaper. "We had always held out hope that somehow John would turn up OK, and this is a terrible way for things to end."
The building sits near the New York foot of the Rainbow Bridge, which links the U.S. and Canada just downstream from Niagara Falls.
Adams had worked there for about five years, his sister said.
She said building officials told her he slipped into the compactor while trying to retrieve a fallen trash bin.
A father of five grown children, Adams was a hardworking man who was always on the lookout for odd jobs, Shepherd said.
"He never messed with anybody," she said. "He was just out looking for work to do."