Two other people who got on just before looked on in horror as Suzanne Hart was killed. They were rescued from the elevator, which jammed between the first and second floors, and were taken to a hospital to be evaluated for psychological trauma. Neither appeared to be physically injured, police and fire department officials said.
Public safety and law enforcement officials said Hart was stepping onto the elevator when her foot became caught in the gap between the elevator car and the lobby floor. They say the car then rose abruptly with its doors still open, pulling her along.
The accident happened Wednesday morning in a 26-story midtown Manhattan office tower near Grand Central Terminal. The building has been the longtime home of Hart's company, the advertising agency Y&R, formerly known as Young & Rubicam.
Investigators with the city's buildings department were trying to determine what went wrong. Safety mechanisms are supposed to prevent elevators from moving while their doors are open.
A buildings department spokesman, Tony Sclafani, said the elevator was inspected in June and no safety issues were found then. The last time the elevator received a violation for a safety hazard was in 2003, and the condition was corrected, Sclafani said.
The elevator is one of 13 in the tower. It was taken out of use pending the outcome of an investigation.
Hart, 41, was a director of business development at Y&R and lived in Brooklyn. Her father told The New York Times in a phone interview from his home in Florida that she was "the most marvelous daughter imaginable."
"No father could have ever been more proud of her," he said.
A spokeswoman for Y&R, which announced just days ago that it planned to vacate the building for a new headquarters, confirmed that there had been a fatality but said she couldn't provide additional information.
The company is among a number of tenants in the building.
Officials initially reported, inaccurately, that the elevator had fallen two floors.