Suzanne Hart, the ad executive who was killed yesterday in a tragic elevator accident, was the victim of a rare but horrifying malfunction, which elevator expert Patrick Carrajat says he's heard of happening "five or six times" in the past. As Hart stepped into the elevator, it shot upward, and it is Carrajat's understanding that her torso was inside the elevator, while the bottom part of her body was forced between the elevator shaft. "From what I'm hearing, she was basically cut in half," Carrajat tells us. "In many ways it's better to be decapitated because the pain is over immediately."

Carrajat, who works primarily as an expert witness in trials involving elevator or escalator accidents, says, "We don't know how long she was alive; a minute or a half hour. I can think of 100 ways to die that would be better than the way this woman died. I am so upset about what happened to her. I make my living talking about these accidents, but I would be happy to not have any more work." (One of Harris's co-workers told the Daily News that when he got to the scene 'it looked like a grenade went off in there.' ")

The good news, if you can call it that, is that this particular type of malfunction—where the elevator moves suddenly and rapidly with a passenger partially inside—is somewhat uncommon. "I've been doing expert witnessing for twenty years, and I've seen five or six of these in the past, where the elevator takes off with the doors open. Usually elevator injuries are minor. But if they fall into the elevator and get stuck in between the elevator the shaft wall, it's serious. Two that I know of were fatal, and there were several others with very serious injuries."

In one fatal incident that Carrajat recalled, a man named Juan Febus was killed in a Brownsville apartment building when the elevator suddenly rose with his body trapped between the elevator and the door. "He got dragged up shaftway with head hanging out," says Carrajat. In another incident, a woman was nearly killed in an elevator malfunction at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. That accident allegedly caused by a repairman's negligence, and in an indictment announced today, Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes described the grisly incident:

A 47-year-old woman and her daughter arrived in the hospital lobby on the way to visit a patient. When the woman entered the elevator, it began moving with its doors open, trapping her left arm and leg between the elevator and the landing, according to the indictment. Her screams echoed throughout the hospital as the elevator traveled up seven flights, crushing her arm and leg against each floor and causing multiple compound fractures and massive blood loss. When the elevator finally stopped on the eighth floor, the victim was lying on the floor of the car, trapped between it and the landing.

Hynes alleges that elevator repairman Jason Jordan "disregarded industry standards and disabled the safety switch that prevents the elevator from moving when the doors are open... He neither employed an assistant to make sure no one boarded the elevator nor posted any signs or notices that the elevator was out of service." Jordan faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on charges of assault and reckless endangerment.

Asked what might have caused Hart's death, Carrajat tells us, "Experts don't speculate, but here are three primary possible causes. One would be mechanical error, and we don't know if a mechanic was on the job. Another possibility is failure in one of the relays or contactors. It's hard to describe to non-technical people, but if the contactor is energized or fails to de-energize, that can create a problem. Then the elevator would be allowed to move even though the door lock was not in the closed position.

"The third way would be a computer glitch. That would enable the cars to move with the doors open. But this is a highly unusual event. The fact that we've had two of these in the past two weeks is startling. There was another fatality in Orange County, California, when a woman tried to climb out of the elevator after a malfunction."

Before signing off to take a call from the Wall Street Journal, Carrajat left us with this discomforting thought: "There's nothing the public can do to protect themselves from this kind of accident, unfortunately." While you chew on that, here's a roundup of some of the "craziest elevator disasters," put together by Buzzfeed The Daily Beast.