Escalator Strangling: Man, 42, Found Dead After Clothes Caught in Steps

Investigators are looking in to the death of a 42-year-old man who was found dead in a downtown Seattle escalator on Friday from an apparent strangulation.

Maurecio Bell was found early Sunday at the bottom of an escalator at the University Metro Station. Medics attempted CPR on Bell but determined that he was unresponsive.

Washington state officials believe the man's clothing became tangled in the escalator, causing him to choke to death. The King County medical examiner's office confirmed that Bell had choked to death, according to the Seattle Times. Alcohol was also found in one of Bell's back pockets, according to CBS affiliate KIRO.

Bell was discovered by a passenger at around 5:30 a.m. The passenger approached Bell, noticed that he was unconscious, and then placed a backpack beneath his head, and attempted to free him from the escalator according to KIRO. When his efforts were unsuccessful, he pressed the emergency stop instead and dialed 911. The death appears to be an accident.

The escalator was last inspected by the Department of Labor and Industries in December, at which point the Metro was instructed to make repairs. Metro was given a March deadline, but L and I confirmed that the work had not been done.

"This is a tragic accident. We've never seen anything like this before," said Jeff Switzer with King County Transportation. "We're working closely with L and I to try to understand what happened here."

It is unclear at this point whether the instructed repairs could have prevented the accident. A second elevator accident occurred in December at Seattle's Bellevue Square shopping center. Four people fell after the escalator malfunctioned; three were taken to the hospital. Witnesses told The Seattle Times that steps of the escalator had been "mangled."