Authorities investigate boy's elevator death

June 16, 2009 8:14:25 AM PDT
Kentucky officials were investigating after the body of an 8-year-old boy was found with his head pinned in a church elevator as his family was cleaning up after his grandmother's wedding reception. A state elevator inspector was expected to arrive at the church on Tuesday, said Dick Brown, spokesman for the state Public Protection Cabinet.

Kentucky State Police said Sunday that Zachary Waddell died at First Christian Church in Sturgis.

The church's pastor, the Rev. Nate Harper, found the boy's body Saturday in the doorway at the lower level of the shaft connecting the church's first and second floors, authorities said.

Union County Coroner Stephen Shouse said the boy died as a result of compression asphyxia, meaning he couldn't breathe after the elevator came down on him.

He was found with his head pinned between the walls of the elevator and the shaft and his body was outside the elevator car, Shouse said. He said the elevator was purchased in 1963 and is similar to a freight elevator.

In a statement Sunday, state police said no foul play was suspected.

State police spokesman Sgt. David Jude in Frankfort said Tuesday that the investigation was continuing, and he said it is too soon to say whether any criminal charges are possible.

"We're still trying to piece all of this together," Jude said in a phone interview.

Jude said "there's no way to tell if there will be any criminal charges or not" because the investigation remains in its early stages.

Harper told the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press that the discovery was the "worst thing" he's ever experienced.

"It was really hard for us, but more than anything else our hearts go out to that family," he told the newspaper. He also said he did not know a lot about the elevator, "but to our knowledge, we believe it was up to standards."

"There's a family that needs prayer," Harper told the AP on Monday afternoon. "They've suffered a great tragedy."

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