Home » Elderly woman trapped after closing: When more than just savings are locked up in the bank

Elderly woman trapped after closing: When more than just savings are locked up in the bank

NORTH CANAAN — “A serious breach of protocol” is how a Webster Bank official described an incident where a woman was inadvertently locked in a branch by employees.

A local woman, not named by state police but noted as being in her 80s and well-known to bank employees, came to the Granite Avenue branch not long before it closed at 4 p.m. Jan. 13.

She requested access to her safe deposit box and was given a private room to view its contents, which is where she was when employees locked the vault and the doors and set the alarm before leaving for the day.

At about 4:45 p.m., a silent alarm went off. Resident State Trooper Jim Promotico responded to what might have been a break-in. Instead, he found the woman attempting to get out.

After emerging from the private room to find herself alone, the woman had tried to return the safe deposit box to the vault, but found it locked. Not wanting to risk the valuables inside, she decided to leave with the box. She was able to open the door into the vestibule, which locked behind her. The door leading outside was dead-bolted. She became trapped without access to a phone, but a motion sensor triggered the alarm and police came to her rescue, summoning an employee with a key.

“I’m very glad the customer was not inconvenienced anymore than she was,” said Ed Steadman, vice president for public affairs for the Waterbury-based bank.

Steadman said there is a specific protocol for procedures at bank branches. Among them is a log for safe-deposit box customers to sign in and out. He did not know if the customer in this case had signed in, but said it should not have mattered.

“Even if the employees didn’t think to check the log, one of the things you do before leaving is make sure there are no customers. It’s the simplest part of the process for closing up for the evening.”

The woman’s car was parked in the lot. The only parking at the branch is in the front of the building, so employees would have seen her car there when they left.

“I don’t know why they didn’t wonder about her car,” Steadman said, “but we’re using this as an opportunity to review protocol and communicate with all 181 branches in four states so something like this won’t happen again.”

He declined to comment on specific actions taken against the branch employees involved.

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