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Mystery of man's death in elevator shaft at Tampa International Airport still unsolved

TAMPA — The Pennsylvania man whose body was found in an elevator shaft at Tampa International Airport on Friday had flown in with his girlfriend for a visit with her parents and a trip to Daytona Bike Week.

Chad Wolfe, 31, arrived in Tampa on a Delta flight from Atlanta just after midnight Friday along with his girlfriend, said his father, Garland Wolfe. The couple planned to meet her stepfather and mother in the Tampa Bay area then head to Daytona for a few days, he said.

The Tampa International Airport Police Department is still investigating what happened next.

According to airport officials, Chad Wolfe stepped onto an elevator on the third floor of the main terminal shortly after his flight landed and rode up to the seventh floor parking garage on the blue side, where his luggage and cell phone were later found.

Garland Wolfe said his son often went to the top floors of places he visited to get a look at the view and was probably looking for a place to smoke.

"He might have gone to get a cigarette while (his girlfriend) went down to get her luggage," Garland Wolfe said. "He went up to find somewhere — parking or something — to have a cigarette."

When he didn't return, his girlfriend and her stepfather had him paged over the airport's loudspeakers, Garland Wolfe said.

The pair waited for Chad Wolfe until about 4 a.m. and then called his father to tell him his son was missing.

About an hour earlier, airport maintenance crews reported a malfunctioning elevator a few doors down from the one Chad Wolfe had used, said airport spokeswoman Janet Zink.

As crews worked to fix the problem the next morning, a technician discovered Chad Wolfe's body about 10:45 a.m., Zink said.

The medical examiner took custody of the body and will determine the cause of death. There were no signs of foul play, Zink said.

Garland Wolfe, at home in Pennsylvania, was waiting by the phone Saturday morning for updates from police. But his patience was wearing thin.

"It has been over 24 hours since the incident and they don't have an answer," he said. "At first they said that he possibly pried the doors open. He's a small guy. At 145 pounds that's virtually impossible."

Besides, he said, his son had a happy life at home and showed no signs of depression. "He had a life, he loved his job and loved his hobbies," his father said.

He and his girlfriend had been together for 10 years. He rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle for fun and he worked every day alongside his dad.

The father-son duo ran a small body repair shop in West Newton, Penn. Growing up around the business, Chad Wolfe started working on cars when he was only 15.

"He hung out at the shop with me a lot," his father said. "He just started fixing things, taking them apart. It will be very difficult to move on."

Times news researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401.

Mystery of man's death in elevator shaft at Tampa International Airport still unsolved 03/16/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 10:23pm]
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