A Philadelphia sheriff's deputy is in an induced coma and is paralyzed from the waist down after he was injured when an elevator at the Criminal Justice Center crashed last week, Sheriff Jewell Williams said Monday.

Sgt. Paul Owens, 49, was in an employee elevator around 10:20 a.m. Thursday when, for reasons that remain under investigation, it rose through the 15th-floor ceiling of the 17-story courthouse and smashed into an equipment room.

Owens was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital in critical condition with severe head and chest injuries, and doctors later discovered that he had four broken vertebrae, Williams said.

Surgeons on Monday were waiting for Owens to regain his strength before attempting to operate on his back. If the operation is successful, Owens' partial paralysis may be alleviated, Williams said.

Meanwhile, Owens is "surrounded by family, machines, and beeping sounds," Williams said.

Williams called the 29-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department a "firm, serious worker." Owens' wife, Heather, is a former sheriff's deputy. He has two children, including a son who is delaying military service to be with his injured father, Williams said.

Members of Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 have brought food to the hospital every day for Owens' family, and Mayor Kenney has visited and calls daily to check on Owens' condition, Williams said.

"There's also been a lot of people sending flowers and plants to his wife, especially the judges and lawyers he came into contact with," Williams said.

A second court employee, who was injured when debris from the crash fell on top of an adjacent elevator in which she was riding, was treated Friday for minor injuries and released.


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