For Second Time, Resident Found Dead In Trash Chute

Florence Banta. (Credit: Family photo)

Florence Banta. (Credit: Family photo)

Updated 04/02/13 – 5:00 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — For the second time in just more than a year, a person was found dead at the bottom of a trash chute inside a Gold Coast high-rise building.

In the most recent case, how an elderly woman ended up there remains a mystery. Authorities are investigating the possibility that she somehow fell into the opening.

In October 2012, the building failed its annual city inspection, but that was due to some problems with elevator maintenance.

On Monday, building workers at 1555 North Astor St. found 80-year-old Florence Banta at the bottom of the chute.

Banta lived on the 17th floor of the high-rise, and she had been missing since Saturday.

Residents are in disbelief, wondering how two people died in apparently the same way.

The family of a woman whose body was found at the base of a Gold Coast building’s garbage chute is raising questions about the size of the chute – and whether the building management should have done something following a death last year.

The daughter of 80-year-old Florence Banta says she has often thought how abnormally large the trash chute is at the Gold Coast building where her mother lived – and died.

Barbara Laken tells Newsradio the trash chute door is perhaps only slightly larger than the average chute door.

“But what’s different about this one is, as your probably know if you live in a high-rise, it’s usually hard to get a loaf of bread down a high-rise chute. They’re very small. You often find yourself having to push the bag down.”

“But in this particular building, the inside area is very large.”

Laken says she does not know for sure, but does not believe her mother committed suicide.

“I just spoke to her psychiatrist, whom she had seen a week and a half ago, and he said there was absolutely no sign of suicidal tendencies that he saw.”

Laken says her mother was in good health, had just signed a new lease in a new building and was planning on having Easter brunch with her family.

In February of last year, a 16-year-old with Down Syndrome fell to his death down the garbage chute. It was ruled an accident.

“The thing that troubles me most,” she says, “is that this never had to happen. The building was aware of the fact that this chute can accommodate a human body.”

Newsradio is trying to reach the management of the building where Florence Banta lived.

CBS 2 has obtained photos of the trash chute.

The door of the trash chute in a high-rise building in the 1500 block of North Astor.

The door of the trash chute in a high-rise building in the 1500 block of North Astor.

It is about two feet square. There’s a handle users must pull to open the chute. There also is a spring on the door.

The opening of the trash chute in a high-rise building in the 1500 block of North Astor.

The opening of the trash chute in a high-rise building in the 1500 block of North Astor.

Police are investigating how Banta died and haven’t released details. An autopsy conducted Tuesday afternoon was inconclusive, pending further investigation on the case.

On Feb. 20, 2012, 17-year-old Charlie Manley fell to his death down the same garbage chute. Manley had autism and down syndrome, CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports.

His family lived in a duplex on the 46th and 47th floors.

His death was ruled an accident.

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