I-TEAM: 1 taken to hospital after elevator 'failed' at senior community

Jacksonville Housing Authority told to replace elevators in 2016, records show

By Kelly Wiley - I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An elevator malfunction at a high-rise senior community in downtown Jacksonville sent one person to a hospital, the News4Jax I-TEAM has learned. 

The I-TEAM also uncovered the Jacksonville Housing Authority, which manages the property and is funded by tax dollars, was told three years ago that the elevators needed to be replaced. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the elevator at Centennial Towers "failed" June 26 while three tenants were on it.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department confirmed that a rescue team took one patient to a hospital after a call for accident injury on an elevator. 

Residents described the elevator abruptly dropping from floor to floor. 

"Just went down ... went to the second floor," said Otis Bess, who lived in Centennial Towers. 

Thomas Davidson needs an elevator to get down from his 14th-floor apartment at Centennial Towers.

"They say it was on the second floor and just dropped to the bottom," he said.

According to Davidson, the elevators at Centennial Towers break down frequently. 

"I was on it one day and it dropped half a floor with me," Davidson said. "I thought I would never get on that elevator again."

Maintenance records from the JHA show there have been more than 30 calls to repair elevators at Centennial Towers in the last three years. The reports show elevators breaking, shutting down and getting stuck multiple times. 

One report recounts a resident saying the elevator was bouncing and causing his neck to hurt.

"They band-aid fixing. Every time it stops, they come out and fix it, but it doesn’t solve the problem," Davidson said.

The I-TEAM found an invoice from 2016 when a contractor wrote, “The machines at Centennial Tower [are] at a crucial point of needing replacement,” as they are original to the building. The contractor went on to say the machine “is leaking with little to no adjustment  or repair.”

The JHA then spent $65,000 to replace one of the elevators. 

"They need to get on the problem before it gets worse," Bess said. "There may be a time that it drops from a whole other level instead of just two floors."

When asked several questions about the property and how it's gotten to this point, the JHA said it would work to answer those questions. The JHA added that large-scale improvements are coming to the building. 

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