Security door malfunctions injure courthouse visitors
By CARRIE JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
INVERNESS -- Visitors to the Citrus County courthouse would be well advised to step lively as they pass through the building's new metal detectors.
The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but not so the turnstiles' sliding glass doors: Two lawyers were clobbered when the security feature snapped shut too quickly.
County Administrator Richard Wesch said use of the doors was halted Thursday until the security company that installed them can make the necessary adjustments.
"We feel terrible that individuals were injured, and we will do all we can to make them whole," he said.
The doors, which are designed to shut in case of a security breach, are just one of many new safety features included in the 40,000-square-foot courthouse addition, which opened Monday.
Under the old system, only visitors to the top two floors of the courthouse had to pass through a metal detector, which was not connected to a turnstile.
Now everyone must pass through a detector. The doors are supposed to open long enough to allow a person to pass through before closing again.
But that hasn't always been the case.
Attorney Daniel Snow was the first reported casualty. He sported an egg-sized lump above his right temple after his run-in with the metal detector Wednesday afternoon.
Snow said he was walking through the metal barriers when the doors suddenly slammed shut, leaving him momentarily stunned.
"If the doors did it to me, think what will happen if you get a 90-year-old lady," he said Thursday. "It could do some real damage."
Assistant State Attorney Jeff Smith had a more serious encounter Thursday morning: One of the smaller bones in his wrist may have been fractured when it was trapped in the glass panels.
"It surprised me," Smith said. "It's like looking down and seeing your hand's being bitten by an alligator."
A 90-degree twist and Smith's hand was freed. But sharp stinging pains convinced him to make a trip to Citrus Memorial Hospital.
A doctor determined Smith probably had a hairline fracture in one of the smaller wrist bones. He was given a splint and told to come back if the pain continued through the weekend.
Smith said he was a big supporter of the courthouse's new security feature. At least, he was until Thursday morning.
"I just wished they worked a little better," he said, chuckling.
The new feature was approved by the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, which provides security to the courthouse. The doors are manufactured by CEIA, which bills itself as "the world leader in security metal detection," according to the company's Web site.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Gail Tierney said she could not provide details about how the contraption works for security reasons. However, she said bailiffs hope to have the problem fixed by Monday.
"They are definitely aware that there are some problems that need to be worked out," she said.
-- Carrie Johnson can be reached at 860-7309 or email@example.com .
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