Fatal hide-and-seek accident not at Packard plant

George Hunter
The Detroit News
The former Grand Trunk Warehouse & Cold Storage facility, built in the late 1920s.

Detroit — A 21-year-old man died Saturday, likely after falling down an elevator shaft while playing in an abandoned building — but the facility where the accident occurred was not part of the Packard plant complex as originally reported by police.

Detroit police sent out an alert Saturday about the incident, in which the man fell to his death while he and a group of friends played hide-and-seek inside the building on St. Aubin near East Ferry. In the alert, police said the building was an extension of the 45-building Packard plant.

But the abandoned building where the accident took place is nearly two miles west of the Packard complex. Yvette van der Velde, spokeswoman for Arte Express, the development firm that bought the plant in 2013, said the building where Saturday's accident occurred is not part of the Packard complex.

"We own the property, but it's not part of the Packard plant," she said.

Detroit police Officer Dan Donakowski, who sent out Saturday's alert about the fatal accident, said he was originally told the accident had happened at the Packard plant.

"That’s how it came out in the notifications," Donakowski said. "That's why we tell people those (alerts) are sent out as preliminary information. We can only go by the information we have at the time."

Detroit police Sgt. Nicole Kirkood added: "After further investigation, it was determined that the accident didn't happen at the Packard plant, but in a vacant building in the 1900 block of Ferry Street."

The site of the fatal accident is the former Grand Trunk Warehouse & Cold Storage facility, built in the late 1920s. The building, which stored food for Beatrice Foods Co., was next to the Grand Trunk Western Railroad tracks.

The facility closed in 2002, and is a favorite haunt for trespassers. Photos of the building are posted on several websites dedicated to "urban explorers."

Police say a group of friends was playing on the building's ninth floor sometime between midnight and 1:30 a.m. Saturday. When the victim ran away to hide, he likely fell through the elevator shaft.

His friends looked for him in vain before leaving the building. When they returned the next morning to resume the search, they found his body amid piles of debris inside an elevator shaft on the first floor, police said. The friends then dialed 911.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN