Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Woman killed by broken elevator

U.S. Playing Card lift support failed at Norwood plant

By David Eck
Enquirer contributor

NORWOOD - Joyce Spencer wasn't supposed to be at work Monday afternoon.

The 56-year-old Avondale woman usually worked second shift at the venerable U.S. Playing Card Co. plant on Beech Street. She had come in on overtime for a little cash.

"She did overtime to help her daughter,'' said Donna Norman, Spencer's niece.

Spencer, who began working for U.S. Card in 1966, was loading two large rolls of paper into an elevator using a tow motor just before 2 p.m. when an elevator support piece failed, investigators said Tuesday.

The elevator car rotated and two massive rolls of paper - which weigh between 2,500 and 2,800 pounds - shifted, trapping and killing Spencer.

Company officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The privately held company manufactures and distributes Bee, Bicycle, Aviator and Hoyle playing cards, along with puzzles, collectibles and card accessories.

The elevator was last inspected in November and a minor violation was noted, said Ohio Department of Commerce spokesman Bill Teets. But that violation was not expected to have played a role in the accident, he added.

U.S. Playing Card "is current on all of its inspections,'' said Teets, whose department is investigating along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In addition to a twice-annual inspections, a required annual safety test was done on the elevator in September and five-year "load'' test was done in August 2001, Teets said.

OSHA's investigation will look into preventive measures that could be taken to avoid such accidents in the future, area Director Richard Gilgrist said. U.S. Playing Card last underwent an OSHA inspection in 1997 and no violations were noted, he said.

It took firefighters from Norwood and Cincinnati more than four hours to reach Spencer because the elevator car was trapped between floors.

"I felt positive,'' Norman said. "I thought she was there just waiting to be rescued. I had no idea that she would die.''

Spencer was a member of Revelation Baptist Church in the West End.

"Joyce to me was the sister I never had,'' Norman said. "We did a lot of things together. I'm going to miss her so much.''

Funeral arrangements were pending Tuesday.


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