Family searches for answers after woman dies in trash chute - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Family searches for answers after woman found dead in trash chute

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Florence Banta Florence Banta
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A grieving daughter is looking for answers as to how her 80-year-old mother fell down a trash chute in a Gold Coast high-rise.

It's the same high-rise on North Astor Street where last year, a 16-year-old disabled boy fell down a trash chute and died.

FULL INTERVIEW: Woman talks about mother's deadly fall

Police say the boy's death last year was an accident. They are still investigating this case, but the victim's daughter says her mother would not have taken her own life and questions whether anything was done after the previous accident to protect building residents.

Barbara Laken says her mother, Florence Banta, was an active 80-year-old, who was packing up her belongings over the weekend to move out of 1555 Astor to another Gold Coast building. On Sunday, however, her mother failed to show for Easter Brunch. Police were then called in and on Monday morning, Banta's body was found at the bottom of the building's trash chute, 17 stories below her apartment.

"She was so perfectly perfect, you know, I cannot imagine this fate for her. It's so horrifying!" Laken says of her mother's death. "My mother fell down 17 stories and then was compacted! There's a compactor down there. And the result was so gruesome that the police would not allow us to see it."

Laken says her mother was well aware that a year ago, a 16-year-old boy with Down Syndrome had fallen down a trash chute in the building and died. With her mother packing up and tossing out lots of garbage, Laken wonders if her mother also accidentally fell down the chute.

"It has a door that is larger than your average chute door, but the thing that makes it really unusual is that when it opens up, it opens up way wide," Laken explains.

Laken says she's never measured the trash chutes, but they seem to invite such incidents and to her knowledge, nothing was done after last year's death to prevent another such tragedy.

"And that's the shame of it all, because this didn't have to happen," Laken says. "I did not have to lose my mother this way."

The condo association says it's cooperating with law enforcement, and that the safety and privacy of its residents remains its top priority.

The city's building department says trash chutes are typically inspected when a high-rise is built, primarily to make sure they meet fire codes.

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