By Melanie Michael
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (WTSP) - People describe the accident as both shocking and heartbreaking. It was certainly the last thing anyone ever expected to see at the TradeWinds Resort on St. Pete Beach.
A hardworking, loving father-of-two was crushed by an elevator while performing maintenance Wednesday morning. His upper body was crushed, say officials.
St. Pete Beach Fire Marshal Ernie Hand told 10 News, "It's a dangerous job working on elevators, when you have to be under any type of object that can move."
The president and chief operating officer of the TradeWinds, Keith Overton, said he's deeply saddened by the accident. "Our hearts go out to the Johnson family. We feel so heartbroken for them. We don't know what went wrong."
The accident happened when 45-year-old Mark Allen Johnson was vacuuming oil and water out of the elevator shaft at the Jacaranda Beach Villas on the TradeWinds property. Officials say Johnson was laying on his belly to clean the the elevator shaft and vacuum the area.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said the elevator was immobilized on the second floor.
Cristen Rensel, a spokesperson the the agency, told us, "The elevator was locked. Protocol had been taken, from what I'm told, to make sure that no one could access the elevator while work was going on. And it's under investigation as to how the elevator fell."
Mark and his co-worker from SWS Environmental Services had been working for roughly 40 minutes. Somehow, the elevator cut loose and crushed Mark's body. It is unclear if a stop-guard mechanism was working on the elevator car at the time of the accident since it was, in fact, immobilized and was not supposed to move.
Rensel added, "One gentleman was outside and had his back turned, the other gentleman was inside still vacuuming, and that is when the elevator fell on top of him."
According to documents filed with the state, the elevator was inspected within the last week. Prior to that, it was also inspected in April of last year, where four violations were found. They were corrected in a followup inspection in August.
Those inspection dates were corroborated by the TradeWinds COO. He told 10 News, "The elevator was inspected Monday."
The fire marhsal said elevators at the TradeWinds can weigh nearly 3,000 pounds. But, they're on a hydraulic system. Since Mark was vacuuming, officials say he may not even have heard the elevator moving until it was too late.
"The worker was down, cleaning out the bottom of the elevator," said the fire marshal. "We don't know how it came down on him, that's part of the investigation."
"We are keeping the Johnson family in our prayers," said Overton. "Investigators are working hard to get to the bottom of this, and we are cooperating fully."