Sheriff's Department sergeant paralyzed in CJC elevator accident

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Monday, August 8, 2016
VIDEO: CJC reopens following elevator malfunction
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Philadelphia's main criminal courthouse is open for business again following last week's elevator malfunction.

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- Officials say a sergeant with the Sheriff's Department was paralyzed in last week's elevator malfunction at Philadelphia's main courthouse.

Sgt. Paul Owens is still in critical condition, with members of his family and the Sheriff's Department by his bedside.

Sheriff Jewell Williams explains, "He's still in an induced coma, and the family is praying for the best, and all of us are."

On Thursday, a failure at the top of one elevator inside the Stout Center for Criminal Justice sent the elevator flying upwards into a maintenance room with Owens inside.

Williams says, "Now the big issue is, is he prepared to do surgery for his back, and there are complications right now. He is paralyzed from his waist down."

The debris from that crash hit a second elevator with a court employee inside who suffered minor injuries.

On Monday the CJC reopened following testing on elevators in the building. Both elevators involved in Thursday's accident are out of service indefinitely.

Now it's up to the Sheriff's Department to shuttle the 6,000 people a day that come through the courthouse.

Employees are encouraged to use escalators and there are some staff elevators in the rear they will use for employees, judges and jurors. Tuesday and Thursday the Sheriff's Department sees larger crowds and they will get a better idea of how they can operate with some elevators out of service.

"We bring in about 600 inmates, who are in custody," Williams said. "So that means there's like thousands of people who have trial. So we are looking at how we can navigate through the times, different floors that people are going to, they have to attend different court hearings."

Anyone who was scheduled to appear Friday or Thursday will receive notice from the court when their trial or matter is rescheduled.