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Isaak Komisarchik was missing since July 5.
An elderly man who died in a parking garage elevator pushed the emergency button twice during an 8-minute span on July 6, but got no response despite Denver code requiring elevator operators to monitor emergency notifications around the clock.
Unable to escape the elevator car — possibly because of dementia — 82-year-old Isaak Komisarchik died some time between the morning of July 6 and Aug. 2, when elevator repair workers finally discovered the body after multiple residents of the apartment complex reported a terrible stench.
When a Denver firefighter responded and pushed the button to call the elevator, the door readily opened and Komisarchik’s body was found was inside the car, Denver Fire Department spokesman Capt. Greg Pixley said.
A criminal investigation confirmed the number of times the emergency button was pushed, Pixley said. Now detectives are trying to determine why no one responded.
“Something is not right,” Pixley said.
Komisarchik died in an elevator that served a parking garage at the Woodstream Village apartments, 10050 E. Harvard Ave., that had been closed for renovation.
Pixley said MEI Total Elevator Solutions monitors the elevator for Woodstream. MEI did not reply to several phone messages left by the Denver Post seeking comment.
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life and extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Komisarchik’s family and friends,” Greystar Management Services, which manages Woodstream, said in a statement released by spokeswoman Lindsay Andrews.
She wrote that the elevator was not in use due to the renovation and said Greystar is “continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident with the local authorities.”
She declined to comment about why no one responded to the emergency calls.
Denver Medical Examiner’s spokesman Steven Castro said the cause of Komisarchik’s death has not yet been determined. Pixley said it’s difficult to determine a cause of death when a body is badly decomposed.
Numerous Woodstream residents complained to managers of a strong odor emanating from the garage area but nothing had been done. Andrews declined to comment about the complaints.
The fact that Komisarchik pushed the emergency button twice adds a new perplexing dimension to the incident. It appears Komisarchik did what he needed to do to get help and yet the closely regulated system for rescuing people trapped in elevators failed.
“The elevator wasn’t inoperable,” said John White, spokesman for Denver police, contradicting numerous reports that elevator was not working. “How he got in there and when he got in there is obviously what we’re trying to figure out.”
Misconceptions about the discovery of Komisarchik’s body make it impossible to fully grasp just how bizarre the incident was, according to officials and residents of the apartment complex. Some officials initially reported that Komisarchik’s body was found in the elevator shaft, Pixley said.
Komisarchik was last seen wearing pajamas at 2:30 p.m. on July 5 at a nearby nursing facility on the 9900 block of East Yale Avenue. His disappearance sparked a large dragnet in which missing persons posters were distributed and Denver firefighters searched five ponds near Woodstream in an attempt to find him.
According to city codes adopted in 1981, the interior of all elevator cars must have signaling devices including an emergency switch labeled “alarm” adjacent to the car’s operating panel and a phone or intercom labeled “help” allowing two-way communication with security.
In some cases the alarms are connected to the Denver Fire Department or an elevator monitoring company, which is responsible for investigating an emergency call. When the two-way communication phone or intercom is not connected to on-site security, a call must automatically be forwarded within 30 seconds to the elevator-monitoring company.
Elevators are regularly inspected by the fire department. The garage elevator at Woodstream Village was last inspected in December and found to be in good working order, Pixley said.
The fire department did not receive any emergency calls from that particular elevator car during the period of time Komisarchik was in it.
When police checked, two elevator calls from the same elevator car where Komisarchik was found were electronically logged at 9:09 a.m. and 9:17 a.m. on July 6, the morning after he disappeared.
Nearly a month later, a Denver fire lieutenant was inspecting an apartment complex adjacent to Woodstream that is also managed by Greystar when the maintenance manager received a call from elevator repair staff saying they thought there was a body in the elevator.
The fire lieutenant followed the manager to the nearby parking garage, Pixley said, but he reached the garage, he smelled an odor so intense that he knew it was a body. When the lieutenant pushed the button, the elevator door opened, Pixley said.