An inmate and a corrections officer plunged to their deaths Monday when they fell down an elevator shaft in the middle of an altercation in a Pennsylvania jail, officials said.
The men slammed into the closed doors of the elevator, which then gave way and opened as the men fell about 70 feet, Luzerne County Manager David Pedri said during a press conference Tuesday.
"The altercation, which lasted only seconds proved to be extremely tragic," he said. "This was a freak accident."
The corrections officer was identified as Kristopher Moules, a 25-year-old who joined the department in September 2015.
The inmate was identified as Timothy D. Gilliam Jr., who was serving time for failing to register as a sex offender, Pedri said.
The scuffle happened on the fifth floor of the Luzerne County Corrections Facility in Wilkes-Barre, Pedri said, after Moules and Gilliam exchanged words.
Moules and a second officer were trying to detain Gilliam when the two men smashed into doors.
"The elevator door gave way, leading to their tragic fall," he said. "The other correction officer who was involved in the incident came very close to also falling."
The two men fell onto an elevator that was on its way up.
Pedri said part of the scuffle was captured on surveillance cameras in the jail, which are being reviewed by investigators. The incident is under investigation, but Pedri said the correction officer "did nothing wrong" during the accident.
The elevator had also been certified and appeared to have no mechanical issues during its last inspection, he said.