Brooke Baures: WSU Waitress Died When Her Head Was Crushed in Dumbwaiter

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Brooke Baures, a senior at Winona State University, was killed last week when her head was crushed by a dumbwaiter at the restaurant where she worked, an autopsy report revealed.

Baures, an accomplished gymnast, died from "extensive destruction of the head along with extensive destruction of the brainstem and left aspect of the cerebellum... severe head trauma," according to the official autopsy report from Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Minnesota.

According to a press release from the Foundation City Police Department, the 21-year-old was working upstairs at Wingdam Saloon & Bar during an event at the establishment on the evening of Dec. 1. The report says a cook downstairs heard the food elevator operating shortly before 8 p.m.

"When the cab landed on the first flood he walked up expecting to see dirty dishes and immediately recognized that a person was trapped inside," the release says. "Simultaneously the first floor bar-tender was coming into the kitchen. The first of several 911 calls came moments later from the female bartender."

While there are no witnesses to the events that led to Baures' death, investigators have pieced together a scenario of what happened.

"Based on witnesses' statements, FCPD believes Brooke is the only person who could have pressed the control button on the second floor. Second, witness statements and the investigation indicate the wall mounted wood door was open. Based on the autopsy results, FCPD believes that Brooke's head was located almost entirely inside the cab of the elevator canted slightly to her right as the cab descended. When the roof of the cab passed the sill of the second floor access, Brooke sustained fatal crushing injuries to her brainstem and cerebellum. Investigative follow up determined that the roof of a weighted cab takes approximately 4.5-5 seconds to pass the wood sill. In other words, this is the amount of time an operator has until the interior of the cab disappears out of sight below the sill," said the release.

"None of the 18 banquet-goers heard any vocalization. Several witnesses place Brooke behind the buffet area just prior to the final cycling of the elevator. The cycling of the elevator produces a noise that several witnesses are familiar with; later described as similar to a garage door motor. In this final cycling however, the majority of the attendees heard unusual noises coming from the elevator. Moments later the cook is seen rushing towards the second floor access (this being after his discovery on the first floor and while the first 911 is being placed).

Investigators continue to work on the case, authorities said.

Pam Wright

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