Man Trapped in Elevator for 41 Hours

Man went for a cigarette, then got trapped in elevator 41 hours with no water.

ByABC News via logo
January 11, 2016, 7:08 AM

April 21, 2008 — -- It was longest cigarette break of Nicholas White's life.

The 34-year-old New York production manager was working late one Friday night in October when he went outside for a smoke.

He was returning to his office on the 39th floor when the elevator stopped abruptly between floors. White pressed the alarm, letting it ring and ring. But at 11 p.m. the building was deserted, and it would be nearly two days before White was rescued.

He paced around the elevator like a bug trapped in a box, fighting claustrophobia every minute of his 41-hour ordeal, which was captured on a video surveillance camera.

"After a certain amount of time I knew I was in big trouble," White told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive interview.

He had no watch, no cell phone, no food or water. His only sustenance was a pack of Rolaids.

"Rolaids aren't a very good meal," White said.

The the most difficult part of the ordeal, he said, was going 41 hours without water. At one point, White thought he might die of dehydration.

He relieved himself by opening the elevator doors a bit and urinating down the elevator shaft.

"I hoped that might be a signal to people in fact: 'why is the elevator leaking?'"

Cold yet sweating, White laid on the floor trying to stay calm. Then he got up and started pacing. At one point he pried open the elevator doors and screamed for help. The only response was silence.

"I had no idea if it was day or night," White said.

Herang the emergency bell, but he couldn't take the constant noise so he occasionally turned it off.

Split-screen video footage of the building showed other parts of the building, including three other elevators. The video showed maintenance workers occasionally fixing various things, but no one heard him and none of them wondered what was going on with car No. 30.

Not a religious man, White prayed for help. On Sunday at 4 p.m., White, who was nearly delirious from thirst, heard a voice on the intercom asking if anyone was there. Finally, he was rescued.

When he went back to work, White found out his co-workers who were also there late thought he had skipped out and left that night.

"A person left me a note about all the problems that occurred while I was playing hooky from the job," White said.

After the 41-hour nightmare, White received a settlement from the building. Unbelievable to many, he still takes elevators.

"Living in Manhattan I'd be seriously limiting my life if I didn't take elevators," he said.