The fire lieutenant was in the middle of a routine inspection. Clipboard in hand, everything was normal as she chatted with the building maintenance manager and filled in elevator safety blanks and boxes. Suddenly, the handyman’s belt radio squawked. “We found a body in the elevator.” Isaak Komisarchik had taken his last ride.
Greystar property management handles accounts for more than one building in the vicinity. The call had come from next door at Woodstream Village. Following the manager toward the complex parking garage, the lieutenant knew what to expect long before she got there. The distinctive smell of a rotting body filled the air. It had been nearly a month since the senior had gone missing.
Whenever a tragedy occurs, investigators look for a cause in order to prevent it from happening again. They look for where the system failed and how it broke down. Mechanical failure and human error are two of the most common. Usually, more than one individual cause is found and together they create a perfect storm that ends in death. Such is the case with the tragic death of Mr. Isaak Komisarchik. Investigators want to know how he got there, when he got there and why nobody responded when he pushed the emergency call button not once, but twice. “Something is not right,” says Denver Fire Captain Greg Pixley.
The 82-year-old resided in a large complex of condominium style apartments. Mr. Komisarchik did not get around much but was functional enough to be independent in his own home. Daughter Yelena says he “walked to the mailbox to pick up the mail and to the office to get some things” about two in the afternoon on July 5. “Then he just disappeared.”
It was unusual for Komisarchik to go any further than his mailbox. Yelena says her father was not able to do much walking. He had started showing other signs of age and was “disoriented at times.”
Dementia affects over five million Americans and the chances of being incapacitated by the affliction only increase with age. Seniors often get confused and leave their homes.
Missing persons reports went out quickly, with posters tacked to phone poles all over the area. Five of the local ponds were searched and not a single trace of the man was found. “We are really worried and really, really anxious to get him back,” Yelena said after he had been missing for three days.
Dressed in what family called pajamas, the gray sweat pants and polo shirt would not have attracted any particular attention. Mr. Komisarchik managed to travel nearly a mile from his home. Seeing another large complex of apartments, somewhat similar to the ones he resided in, may have led the disoriented gentleman to believe he had found his home. Somehow, he managed to fatally enter the elevator separating the parking garage from the main complex.
While not “closed,” this particular elevator was not being used. The garage was under renovation and closed for the summer. Because this is now a criminal investigation, details are few. It is not clear when Komisarchik got to the elevator, or what his physical state was but it probably took a long time for him to get there on foot. What we do know is that no matter how confused or incapacitated he was, he recognized the big red Alarm button and pushed it at 9:09 a.m. the morning after his disappearance, a gap of roughly 19 hours. He pushed the button again eight minutes later. Nobody ever answered.
The elevator was functioning normally and all of its systems including the emergency call button worked just the way they should. Denver law requires “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. Companies have a choice of routing the calls direct to the fire department or to provide private monitoring. In this case, the required 24/7 hot-line is linked to MEI Total Elevator Solutions. MEI “received an alert from the elevator and notified the apartment building management. Apartment workers checked two of the elevators but not a third elevator, where Komisarchik’s body was eventually found.”
The property is managed by Greystar Management Services, who issued a statement. “We are saddened by the tragic loss of life and extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Komisarchik’s family and friends. The elevator was not in use due to the renovation and Greystar is continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident with the local authorities.”
This outcome could have been prevented even before Komisarchik got to the elevator. Advances in technology enable families of those with cognitive issues to get kits designed to help tracking dogs find lost loved ones. “The kit includes a specialized, sterile pad, jar, label, and evidence seal. People with elderly relatives can request the kit and then store it in the refrigerator. The purpose of having a clear, uncontaminated odor for tracking is the faster recovery of missing persons.”
One woman was rescued in Citrus County, Florida after missing for two hours. Dogs located her only five minutes after catching a whiff of the sample, even though it was two years old at the time.