Woman Trapped in Hospital Elevator for Hours Dies Later

An Ames woman died after being trapped in a hospital elevator for nearly three hours.

Tamela Sims, 34, was on her way from the emergency room to intensive care when she and hospital staffers became trapped Saturday.

The woman finally made it to intensive care and her condition was stabilized, but she died a short time later. The cause of her death wasn't immediately released.

Mary Greeley Medical Center spokeswoman Irina Bassis said the elevator's brake control board malfunctioned, stranding Sims and several attendants between floors.

Bassis said Sims had access to medical help, equipment and supplies in the elevator and full communication with doctors was available through the elevator telephone and an elevator ceiling outlet.

"We are looking into the incident and we are trying to make sure that we are adhering to every policy, procedure and protocol that we have here," she said, adding that the elevators are maintained regularly.

The Iowa Division of Labor Services, an office within Iowa Workforce Development, is responsible for elevator inspections in the state. Iowa law requires elevator inspections once every five years.

The hospital's elevator was last inspected in October of 2006, said IWD spokeswoman Kerry Koonce.

"The report was fine. The inspections were done on time and everything was good," she said.

The state looked into the incident and Koonce said the brake circuit that failed had to be replaced to get the trapped people out. A follow up inspection after the incident indicated the necessary work to get the elevator functioning again had already been done.

Koonce said she agrees with hospital officials that the weight of the people and equipment in the elevator did not result in the mechanical failure.

Sims' mother, Linda Sims, told the Ames Tribune that her daughter weighed more than 500 pounds. The weight limit for the hospital's elevator number 7 is registered at 4,000 pounds and the estimated load including Sims, the attendants and medical equipment was about 2,000 pounds, Bassis said.

Linda Sims said her daughter went to the hospital's emergency room in an ambulance at around 11:30 p.m. July 5.

Bassis said the hospital staff determined she needed to go to the intensive care unit for treatment at around 3 a.m. the next morning. On the way, the elevator stopped between floors.

Sims reached the ICU at around 6 a.m. Although her condition stabilized, Bassis said she later died.