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BLOOMINGTON — A 56-year-old maintenance mechanic was killed Tuesday in an elevator accident at the McLean County Law and Justice Center. 

John Hoeniges of Bloomington, a seven-year county employee, was found by co-workers about 10:30 a.m. in an elevator shaft at the downtown Bloomington facility's north elevators, said McLean County Coroner Kathy Davis.

No details were released. Davis said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration division of the U.S. Department of Labor arrived within an hour; a representative from the State Fire Marshal's Office, which has oversight of elevators, will arrive Wednesday.

"There is no indication the circumstances of this incident present a risk to those who work in the Law and Justice Center or the general public," Davis said in a news release, adding the building remained open during and after the incident.

The north elevators will be closed at least until the fire marshal's office finishes its investigation, said County Administrator Bill Wasson. 

Wasson said Hoeniges was last seen by other county employees earlier Tuesday morning, heading toward the elevator shaft. 

"We don't know why he was in there," County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen said. About 24 people work in facilities management at the Law and Justice Center. 

"It's with great sorrow that our organization endured this today," said Wasson. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Wasson said he would see Hoeniges every morning opening up the government center. "He was up early opening the building," he said.

"He was beloved by everyone," said Davis.

Wasson said the closing of the two north elevators should not affect those using the Law and Justice Center.

"We have sufficient capacity with the second set (of elevators)," he said.

The building has six elevators, four of which are open to the public.

While Davis would not speculate on the cause of Hoeniges' death, an official at the scene said Hoeniges may have been struck by one or more elevator counterweights. Counterweights are used to stabilize the load of an elevator and can weigh as much as 6,000 pounds.

An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

Thomas Bielema, OSHA's area director in Peoria, said the first thing OSHA will do is determine which agency has jurisdiction.

"We cover all private-sector and federal employees, but the state reserves the right to cover some state, county and municipal employees," he said. "If it falls under our jurisdiction, we will have six months to do a thorough investigation. We will offer assistance in whatever way we can."

The last McLean County employee to die on the job was William Belcher, a deputy coroner who was killed Sept. 12, 1997, at the scene of a car crash he was investigating.

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