Safety commission urges vacation-rental owners to disable elevators immediately

Following the death of a 7-year-old boy in a residential elevator in Corolla earlier this month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is urging all vacation rental platforms, including AirBnB, Vrbo and owners, to disable their elevators immediately.

“The agency is taking steps with the manufacturers, but we need the businesses that facilitate vacation rentals to join us,” CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler said in a statement Wednesday. “These injuries and deaths are horrific, and we need property owners and rental agencies to disable elevators immediately until they have been inspected.”

On July 11, a 7-year-old boy from Canton, Ohio, was trapped in a residential elevator at a vocation home in the 1100 block of Franklyn Street in the Corolla Light neighborhood. Rescuers freed the boy and tried to resuscitate him, but the child died.

Residential elevators pose a hidden and deadly hazard: small children can be crushed to death in a gap that may exist between the doors, the CPSC said in the statement. If the gap between any exterior (i.e., hoistway) door, and the farthest point of the inner door (which is often an accordion door) is too deep, a child can enter and close the hoistway door without opening the interior car door, and become entrapped between the two doors, resulting in serious injuries or death when the elevator car moves.

Children, some as young as 2, and as old as 12, have been crushed to death in this gap, suffering multiple skull fractures, fractured vertebrae and traumatic asphyxia, the commission said. Other children have suffered devastating and lifelong injuries.

The commission sent a letter to vacation rental businesses Wednesday, asking rental companies to notify all renters immediately about the potential hazard via email, or in a warning box on their reservation or booking pages; immediately require all members or “hosts” using the platforms to lock outer access doors or otherwise disable the elevators in their properties, unless and until those members provide proof of an inspection, certifying that no hazardous gap exists; and require elevator inspections of anyone posting a listing going forward.

Over the last several years, CPSC has issued warnings, recalls and a lawsuit concerning residential elevators.

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