San Diego

‘Pretty Extreme': Elevator Drops, Traps 2 Inside for Hours, Passengers Say

Two women were trapped in an elevator in a downtown San Diego high-rise building for more than three hours after it dropped several stories Wednesday night.

Kalani Creutzburg, a friend of the two women, said they were supposed to have dinner at a restaurant on top of the 34-story Symphony Building on B Street but the women never arrived. 

"They never made it to the University Club. I was up there waiting for them to join me," Creutzburg said. "Luckily, I was able to talk to them the whole time through the phone." 

The friends called Creutzburg at about 7 p.m. and said they were trapped inside the elevator after it had dropped what felt like four to five stories.
NBC 7 Photojournalist Elroy Spatcher was there as crews worked for hours to free two women from a trapped elevator.

The women tried to pry the door open themselves. Once the elevator doors opened, though, they realized they were facing a wall and would not be able to get out. 

The elevator was trapped between the basement and the 10th floor in an empty shaft that does not have openings to the first nine floors, San Diego SDFD Battalion Chief Dan Eddy said. 

One woman injured her back and was laying down inside the elevator waiting to be freed, Creutzburg said.

NBC 7's Jackie Crea was at the scene when the two women were finally rescued.

Eddy said crews had a series of plans in place to try to get to the trapped passengers.

Plan A was to restart the electrical system, which will sometimes jolt the elevator into moving again. It didn't work.

Plan B was to work with the elevator company, Otis, to get the elevator re-started. It didn't work. 

At one point, all the lights shut off so the women were sitting in the dark. 

"Nobody, I know myself would not like to be stuck in that elevator in the pitch dark and everything else so we were able to get light back and that made them feel more comfortable," Eddy said. 

Eddy said firefighters moved on to Plan C -- what is called a "float." In that situation, crews float the elevator to take pressure off the elevator's cabling, which gives the elevator some slack to move again. 

"It worked for us, which is great because our next step was going in to try to pull them out then we would have had to set up a rope system to pull them up 10 stories," Eddy said. 

Firefighters pushed the door open and pulled the women out of the elevator. 

"Oh, it was, it was pretty extreme," one of the woman told NBC 7's Elroy Spatcher as she was placed into the back of an ambulance.

Both women were injured and taken to local hospitals for evaluation. The injuries were described as minor. 

Despite the ordeal, Creutzburg said he was thankful to firefighters for getting his friends out.

"I'm so, so very grateful that the firefighters did what they did," he said. "They acted as swift as they could."

All of the elevators at Symphony Towers were inspected in May, a spokesperson for the Department of Industrial Relations told NBC 7 on Thursday.

Several of the elevators at Symphony Towers are displaying expired permits, which means the building management company has not replaced them. One elevator showed a permit had expired in November 2016.

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