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Elderly couple doomed when elevator stuck

Associated Press / July 17, 2010

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ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — When the elevator in their home got stuck between floors, Sherwood and Caroline Wadsworth found themselves trapped with no way to call for help as temperatures rose into the 90s in the closet-sized lift until they finally died from heat exhaustion.

Autopsies on the elderly couple — he was 90, she was 89 — on Thursday pointed to a tragic end to lives they shared for more than 60 years. Police estimated they had been dead at least four days before a newspaper carrier called 911 out of concern after papers had piled up by their garage.

Investigators were trying to determine what turned an elevator into a death trap inside the Wadsworths’ three-story home overlooking Georgia’s coastal marshes. Stunned family members, meanwhile, looked for a shred of solace.

“We always said we hoped they would go together because if one went, the other wouldn’t survive long,’’ the couple’s son, Wesley Wadsworth of Blue Bell, Pa., said Thursday. “They were so dependent on each other.’’

The newspaper carrier called police Wednesday after noticing the unopened editions going back to July 9, as well as an untouched watermelon a neighbor had left at the couple’s door the day before.

Police had to break into the house because the doors were locked and bolted. Inside they found no one but the Wadsworths’ cat. Then they noticed the elevator — accessed by what looked like closet doors with up-and-down arrow buttons. Once the shaft was open, they found the elevator stuck between the home’s second and third floor.

Police found the Wadsworths’ bodies lying in a fetal position, facing each other, Glynn County coroner Jimmy Durden said Thursday. Autopsies concluded both died from heat exhaustion.

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