Chicago firefighters made a daring overnight rescue to free a man trapped for more nearly four hours in a broken high-rise elevator.
The man, in his 20′s, was on his way home just after 9 p.m. last night, when the elevator he was riding in lurched to a stop near the 20th floor. He called for help, but when firefighters responded to the building at 65 East Monroe Street, they could not get the broken elevator to budge. They resorted to a rescue effort straight out of an action movie.
“Their first inclination was to get him using an adjacent elevator in the same bank, and possibly bring him out through the trap door in the ceiling of the broken elevator, and then into the trap door of the other car,” said Chief Kevin MacGregor of the Chicago Fire Department. ”It’s not an easy process in the dark elevator shafts at night time.”
But that is exactly what they tried. The trapped man and his rescuers carefully climbed through the darkened shaft and in through the roof of the second car—only to find that the elevator they had hoped to use as a rescue vehicle also was broken.
A repairman was called in to fix what he believed was an electrical problem. In the meantime, the man, and his rescuers remained stuck. Firefighters on the ground kept searching for a way to get the trapped men out.
“We tried a few things. We even considered looking at the plans for the building so that we could breach a wall in the lower commercial areas of the building to get into that elevator shaft,” said MacGregor. “We also thought about coming from above and lowering more rescuers down by ropes.”
The 49-story building, known as the Park Monroe, houses commercial space on the lower floors, and recently converted condominiums on the top floors. With the men stuck in the middle, it was fortunate that one of the trapped firefighters found a solution.
“Our guys were up on top of the elevator and discovered there was a reset switch,” on the 2nd disabled elevator, MacGregor said. “They activated it, and were able to operate that elevator manually.”
Firefighters rode on top of the crippled elevator car, slowly lowering it to the ground floor where the trapped man, and his rescuers finally escaped.
“It’s not ideal but it was better than the alternative,” said MacGregor. “It’s a slow process to do it safely. You’re working in that element and the visibility is very poor. Nobody got hurt, that was the main thing.”