Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Death of woman crushed by lift in Weeki Wachee ruled an accident

WEEKI WACHEE — The homemade lift that crushed a woman in July is up and running again, and the tragedy has been ruled an accident by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Margaret Harrison of Spring Hill was a youthful 66, friends said, and healthy. How she ended up underneath the slow-moving lift, which she had used frequently at her best friend's home, had been a mystery.

Investigators theorize that Harrison tripped and fell while the lift was stopped above the ground, the Sheriff's Office said in a report released this week. As she tried to catch herself, she apparently grabbed a pole designed to lower the contraption and found herself under the falling steel-framed platform.

July 23 started as a quiet Tuesday. Harrison and her best friend, Jean Blair, whom she knew from the First Baptist Church of Hernando Beach, had planned to study the Bible while Jean's husband, Robert Blair, underwent surgery in Tampa, according to Jean. She said she had lowered the lift that Robert built almost two decades ago next to the Blairs' three-story house in Weeki Wachee.

She expected Harrison to arrive soon after they talked on the phone about 7:40 that morning, she told detectives.

By 9 a.m., Blair called Harrison's longtime companion, Frank Jorr. She had no idea where Harrison was, according to the sheriff's investigation.

When Jorr arrived and saw Harrison, already dead, pinned under the lift, he called up to Blair, who said this week that she remains shaken by her friend's death.

"I can't stop crying," she said. "I miss her every day."

Hardly able to walk with her artificial knees and heart problems, the 81-year-old Blair mostly stays in a wheelchair.

So while Harrison was mourned at a graveside funeral July 24 in her native Alabama, Jean Blair remained confined to her bedroom, her husband said. Their home's spiral staircase was unmanageable.

The same day as the funeral, a letter was mailed to the Blairs by Vic Heisler, an investigator with the Hernando County Building Department, notifying them that the lift violated county codes.

Robert Blair worked with the county staff to obtain an electrical permit for the lift late last week, and it was deemed fit to run that day, said Jodi Singer, the Building Department's operations manager.

Alison Barnwell can be reached at (352) 754-6114 or

Death of woman crushed by lift in Weeki Wachee ruled an accident 08/07/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 10:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Halloween Horror Nights: 'The Shining,' 'Saw' and more things to give you nightmares at Universal Orlando


    The 27th year of Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights will scare the pants off you -- in the best possible way.

    The scare zone inspired by horror flick Trick r' Treat is one of the most beautiful at this year's Halloween Horror Nights 27.
  2. 10th resident from sweltering Hollywood nursing home dies

    Public Safety

    A 10th person from the Hollywood nursing home that turned into a deadly hothouse after the facility lost power following Hurricane Irma has died, Hollywood police said.

    The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, 1200 N. 35th Ave. [EMILHY MICHOT | Miami Herald]
  3. Feeling mental fatigue after Hurricane Irma and other disasters? It's real.


    TAMPA — Blackness. Eyes closed or open, the same.

    A Tampa Bay Times reporter in a sensory deprivation tank used for floating therapy at Sacred Floats & Gems Co. located at 6719 N Nebraska Avenue, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Floating therapy relaxes people because they experience a sense of zero gravity when they are inside the tank, which contains 150 gallons of water and 1000 pounds of medical grade Epsom salt. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  4. Trump vows more sanctions on North Korea


    President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to impose more sanctions on North Korea as he prepared to meet with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea to seek a common strategy in confronting the isolated nuclear-armed state.

    U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters on Sept. 19, 2017. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 in New York described as "the sound of a dog barking" Trump's threat to destroy his country. [Associated Press]
  5. Tampa chamber of commerce votes against tax increase on business property


    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Thursday voted against supporting a city of Tampa plan to raise taxes on commercial properties in the city for 2018. The property tax, included in the city's proposed $974 million budget, would boost taxes from $5.73 to $6.33 for every $1,000 in property value.

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce voted against supporting a city tax hike on commercial property. Pictured is Bob Rohrlack, CEO of the chamber. | [Times file photo]