BROOKLYN, NY — A 35-year-old woman was killed early yesterday at the Brooklyn office building where she worked when an escalator step collapsed and she was pulled into its machinery.

The accident occurred at 7:45 a.m. just after the victim, Emma Niskala of 11 Melrose Avenue in Lynbrook, L.I., had arrived at the New York Telephone Company building, at 395 Flatbush Avenue Extension, at Dekalb Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn.

Her step collapsed, dropping her feet first inside the machinery.

According to police reports, Ms. Niskala, an accounting clerk who had worked at the company for 15 years, entered the building's small lobby, walked toward the right and stepped onto the upward-bound escalator behind two others.

In a few seconds, after the stairs had climbed a short distance, the step on which she stood collapsed, creating a sheer drop. She fell feet first inside the machinery and was pulled by a conveyor belt inside the machine before it came to a halt.

"Completely Helpless"
"Those on the steps ahead of her felt completely helpless," said Detective Vincent Gerecitano of the 88th Precinct, who is investigating the accident. "She just disappeared. They couldn't see her anymore."

Those in the lobby hurriedly summoned a nearby police officer who managed to tear away some of the metal stairs to reach her. She died at the scene.

The two-story escalator, one of four installed in the building in 1974, was the site of another accident in 1982 when it suddenly reversed direction as 80 employees on it were returning from a fire drill. Dozens received minor injuries, and the escalator was shut down for three months while repairs were made, said a spokesman for the New York City Department of Buildings, Vahe Tiryakian.

With the exception of a minor handrail defect, the escalator has had no problems since and passed its most recent inspections, one in January by a private elevator maintenance department and one in June by the Buildings Department. The department is conducting its own investigation into the accident, Mr. Tiryakian said. [The article continues.]