Twenty-five year old Stephen Hewett-Brown had every intention of seeing the ball drop at midnight with his girlfriend on New Year’s Eve. But sadly, before he could ring in 2016, he died heroically saving a stranger’s life.
Hewett-Brown, who lived in the Bronx, was attending a party in an apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood. Later that night around 11:30pm, he and a few other residents were trapped in an elevator in the building. Prying the door open, Hewett-Brown “hoisted resident Erude Sanchez to safety,” but before he could move away from the doorway, the elevator came crashing down, pinning him the “ceiling of the cab and the third floor,” the New York Times wrote.
“He said ‘Happy New Year’ and pushed her out,” Manuel Coronad told the New York Daily News. “I tried to help the guy…He was saying ‘I can’t breathe.’ I tried to pull him up, but he said ‘Leave me here, leave me here.’”
Coronad also said that many of the residents in the 26-story building called 9-1-1, but the paramedics didn’t arrive for 20-30 minutes.
“We called and they took a long time to come. It’s a block away. I don’t know why they didn’t come to help,” he said.
When the paramedics did get there, they rushed Hewett-Brown to New York Hospital, but he later succumbed to his injuries. Hewett-Brown’s mother was so distraught and could barely muster up the strength to talk to reporters, telling the Daily News, “I’m grieving my son. We don’t want to say anything.”
Ejiro Omenih, a friend of Hewett-Brown recalled that his friend was a selfless person who truly cared about others.
“It’s crazy, but that’s just who he is — he would put himself in the line of fire to help another.That shows his character,” he said.
This isn’t the first time the apartment complex, which houses mostly low-income families and immigrants, has had a serious issue with the elevator’s safety, notes the New York Times. It currently has three open violations on its elevators stemming from 2012, dozens of complaints over the years from residents and in July of 2015, the elevator dropped several floors with people stuck inside. Ironically, the building’s owners Grand Street Guild East HDFC, were scheduled for a hearing the same day of the tragic accident for two violations given by the Environmental Control Board.
The building’s management company Wavecrest Management has yet to make a public statement about Hewett-Brown’s death, but the NYPD believes that there doesn’t seem “to be any criminal wrongdoings.”