LOWER EAST SIDE — A Bronx man was crushed to death in front of his pregnant girlfriend as he tried to escape a malfunctioning elevator shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve, officials and witnesses said.
Stephen Hewett-Brown, 25, suffered fatal injuries when he was pinned between the elevator car and the third floor of 131 Broome St. minutes before midnight on Friday, police and witnesses said.
The elevator was packed with New Year's revelers heading to a party when the car began to plummet, said resident Erude Sanchez, 43, who was returning from taking out the garbage with her 10-year-old nephew.
Hewett-Brown shoved her out of the car and became wedged from the waist down in the elevator, she said.
Initially, the trapped man was able to talk, wishing concerned witnesses "Happy New Year" with the top portion of his body sticking out of the third floor, Sanchez said.
"It scared me, like a shock," she said. "He basically saved me. I would have been stuck, too."
Sanchez's terrified nephew, Angel Peguero, 10, was trapped inside the elevator car with Hewett-Brown's cousin, sister and visibly pregnant girlfriend.
"She was crying and saying, 'I want my boy,'" Peguero said of the man's girlfriend.
At first the other passengers tried to pull the trapped man into the elevator by his legs, but eventually gave up and waited for emergency workers to arrive, the boy said.
Hewett-Brown became less upbeat, telling Sanchez's son-in-law Emmanuel Coronado, "Help me, because I cannot breathe," said Coronado, 23. Then Hewett-Brown said, "Leave me, because I cannot breathe," Coronado added.
Sanchez and Coronado said that they waited about 20 minutes for EMS workers to arrive, but FDNY officials said that it took only four minutes 25 seconds to get to the scene.
"There was no delay," Fire Department spokesman Jim Long said.
Hewett-Brown was taken to New York-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital at 12:32 a.m. and pronounced dead, officials said.
The Broome Street building, which is part of a federal affordable housing program, has had 36 elevator complaints since 2009, according to city Department of Buildings records. There were seven complaints in 2015, with the most recent on June 21, records show.
The investigation into the death is ongoing, according to the NYPD, and the medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death.