A student at Winona State University (WSU) was found dead in a food elevator, at a restaurant in the tiny town of Fountain City, Wisconsin. The young woman, 21-year-old Brooke Baures, was a promising gymnast who majored in social work, but how she ended up dying in a 3′ by 3′ food elevator — also called a “dumbwaiter” — has police baffled.
The sole police officer in the town of just 859, Jason Mork, says he does not believe that Baures was the victim of a foul play.
The student, whom friends and teammates described as a “magnetic” personality who “warmed your heart” just by entering a room, was employed at the restaurant, the WingDam Saloon and Grill in Fountain City. Part of her job was retrieving customers’ food orders from the compact elevator. But the food elevator was never intended for a human being to actually get inside. So how the charming WSU gymnast ended up in there remains a mystery.
“The device is generally known as a dumbwaiter. It’s an elevator which moves food and other items from the first floor to the second floor,” said Police Officer Mork. “Everyone knows that something happened absolutely, everyone knew within hours that something tragic happened.”
Mork told a Minneapolis TV station that to describe what happened to Baures would be speculation at this point, so he declined to give any further details of the food elevator tragedy.
The Fountain City officer said, however, that Baures was for some reason attempting to travel between floors of the restaurant in the tiny elevator, saying “I highly doubt,” that scenario.
Instead, the student was “using it to move food,” Mork told KMSP News.
The call came in to a 911 operator at 7:55 pm on Monday, reporting that Baures was trapped in the food elevator. Mork said that “first responders” got to the scene, but found the WSU student had already passed away.
— Winona St. Warriors (@WSUWarriors) December 3, 2014
The WingDam Saloon and Grill closed the following day, and the WSU campus was in morning for the deceased student, a senior at the university.
“Brooke had a magnetic personality and a smile that would light up the gym,” said her gymnastics coach, Beckie Rolbiecki. “She was a sparkplug of a competitor and an ambitious, dedicated teammate.”
The U.S. Occupational Safety And Health Administration reports that accidents involving a food elevator almost never happen. OSHA keeps statistics only between 2003 and 2013, but in that time there were only two food elevator incidents reported — but both, like the tragedy involving WSU student Brooke Baures, ended in fatalities.