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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Breaking: S.F. Medical Examiner Releases File for Dan Kliman Elevator Case. Ruling: Accident -- and 'Multiple Defects' Found in Fatal Elevator Door

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2009 at 3:15 PM

click to enlarge Dr. Dan Kliman
  • Dr. Dan Kliman
SF Weekly has obtained a copy of the Medical Examiner's final report for Dr. Dan Kliman, the pro-Israel activist who fell to his death in an elevator shaft at 55 New Montgomery in November of last year. The ruling: Death by blunt-force trauma, accidental. Also, "multiple defects" were detected in the door of the elevator Kliman tumbled out of.

We will deliver an update as soon as possible with details from the report.

See all SF Weekly's Kliman stories here.

UPDATE, 3:45 P.M
.: In an 18-page report released today, the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office determined that Dr. Dan Kliman died of blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen following a fall from an elevator believed stuck between the fourth and fifth floors at 55 New Montgomery. While how Kliman ended up in the bottom of the elevator shaft is not spelled out with exact certainty, the report does note "multiple deficiencies" in the elevator car that he fell from.

Kliman, 38, was a fiery pro-Israel activist and co-founder of S.F. Voice for Israel. The strange circumstances surrounding his demise -- combined with recent, well-publicized failures from the San Francisco Police Department -- led many in the Jewish community to assume that Kliman was the victim of a cabal of anti-Zionist extremists.  

These whisperings led Inspector Matt Krimsky to assure SF Weekly that the police had "physical evidence" that Kliman forced his way out of the elevator: "We've

got forensic evidence pointing toward a tragic accident. There is no

evidence of foul play whatsoever. Underscore that, bold it and print it

with an exclamation point," said the inspector.

Naturally, Krimsky was soon removed from the case by the SFPD and replaced with a "task force" led by a homicide investigator. All further media inquiries were directed to the Public Information Office -- who, while pleasant, did not answer any questions. Nothing more was said of the case -- until now.

The report theorizes that Kliman may have pried his way out of the elevator's inner door with a purple pen found clutched in his left hand (this "was possible") notes the report, written by investigator Graham Cowley.

Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Ellen Moffatt, writing in a March 11 communique included within the report, notes "In a previous discussion with SFPD Lt. Spillane, OSHA [the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration] found that the latch keeping the elevator door closed was faulty."

Writing again on March 16, Moffatt added this telling paragraph:

Spoke with Jennifer Stafford of the OSHA Elevator Unit who states that the report is not yet done, but that so far multiple defects were found with the functioning of the door, and one of these defects involved the latch mechanism of the door to keep the inner door closed. When the inner door was forced open, then the outer door could be easily opened.The elevator, according to their investigation, was stuck between the fourth and fifth floors. 

Because of the age of the elevator, there is no way to determine why the elevator became stuck (there are no computer chips or memory etc.) She is also pursuing violations concerning not checking the elevator shaft before attempting to operate the elevator, not only because Mr. Kliman may have been found sooner (or perhaps injured further by the elevator) but because someone else who may have been in the shaft later to repair the elevator may have been injured.

Phone calls to the SFPD's Public Information Office asking if the department is ready to make any statements about just how Kliman may have managed to pry his way out of the elevator before ending up at the bottom of the shaft have not yet been returned.

Again, you can read all of SF Weekly's coverage of this story here.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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