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Family of man killed in elevator accident sues TradeWinds resort

Published Jan. 8, 2014

ST. PETE BEACH — The family of a man crushed to death by an elevator at the TradeWinds Island Resort has filed a lawsuit against the well-known beach hotel.

Mark Allen Johnson, 45, of Tampa was a subcontractor hired to clean oil and water from the bottom of an elevator shaft at the resort's Jacaranda Beach Villas property at 5600 Gulf Blvd.

On April 24, after about 40 minutes of work, the elevator car, which had been parked on a higher floor, suddenly plunged on top of Johnson.

He died before rescuers could get to him.

Johnson's family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in Pinellas County late Tuesday afternoon.

"It's a terrible, sad, tragic story," said Tommy Roebig, the Johnson family attorney. "The sad part is it could have been prevented."

Days after the accident, fire authorities who tried to rescue Johnson said they noticed an important safety step had been missed.

No one ensured that the main power to the elevator was completely off, a process referred to as "lockout/tagout."

In November, federal investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said both the hotel and SWS Environmental, the company Johnson worked for, should be penalized for serious safety violations. OSHA investigators said the companies should have ensured safety procedures, including "lockout/tagout," are known and followed.

The family's lawsuit is against only the hotel.

Roebig said that's because his firm's investigation concluded Johnson and SWS weren't in charge of the elevator and that the TradeWinds was at fault.

TradeWinds officials could not be reached to comment.

The lawsuit claims the TradeWinds' elevator service company, Thyssenkrupp, told a hotel employee to contact it before the cleaning began so the elevator could be properly secured. That never happened, the suit said.

Roebig said Johnson was not married but left behind two sons, 16 and 18. The lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

"Mark was a hard-working father," he said. "One of the hopes that the family has ... is that something like this doesn't happen to someone else."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at, (727) 893-8643 or @cornandpotatoes on Twitter.