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Valet Drives Car Down Elevator Shaft in Upper East Side Parking Garage

By  Jesse Lent and Paul DeBenedetto | July 17, 2012 10:44am | Updated on July 17, 2012 5:47pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — A valet drove a car through a closed elevator door and plunged five floors down the shaft on the Upper East Side Tuesday morning, nearly crushing a man inside an occupied elevator car below, officials said.

According to fire officials at the scene, Steven Morales, 21, drove an Lexus RX 350 down the shaft from the fifth floor of the City Valet parking garage at 355 E. 76th St., at about 9:45 a.m. Tuesday. He crash landed on top of an elevator on the ground level of the building, which also houses a Hertz Rent-A-Car center.

"He broke through the closed door and landed upside down on the elevator car with one victim trapped inside," said FDNY Chief Stephen Geraghty.

The man in the elevator was able to escape before the 4,500 lb. car crushed the elevator. Morales was trapped inside the car until FDNY arrived on scene and used the jaws of life to break him free. Both men are employees of City Valet, fire officials said.

Morales was charged with driving without a license and aggravated unlicesnsed opertion of a vehicle, after having 11 suspensions levvied against him, according to the NYPD.

According to city records, an elevator at 355 E. 76th St. was issued an unsatisfactory rating on September 2, 2011.

Jeremy Koretz, 23, a dental assistant next door at the Dr. James Koretz dental office, witnessed the men being put into ambulances. He said the man in the elevator was pulled out first, followed by Morales.

"The first person looked in shock and shambles as to what was going on," Koretz said. "The second one definitely needed a stretcher."

Both men were taken to New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, another fire official said.

City Valet was not immediately available for comment.