Two City Hall elevators have malfunctioned recently, trapping students inside and dropping several floors with no warning.
In the most recent incident, sophomores Heather Sala and Cara Violet were stuck inside for more than 35 minutes at the 11th floor at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19, falling four stories before they were rescued.
“As soon as we stepped inside, the doors shut and a really loud rumbling started over our heads,” said Sala, who is a Hatchet staff writer. “The elevator was also shaking.”
After hitting the alarm button, Sala and Violet pulled the emergency stop button, which triggered the building’s fire alarm. The rumbling stopped soon after that.
Sala called University Police from inside before the elevator dropped from the 11th to the eighth floor, finally shooting back up to the 12th. It sat, stuck again, just above the 12th floor, the students said.
“I was screaming at the top of my lungs,” Sala said. “We were made almost airborne when it dropped.”
The UPD operator tried try to calm the girls’ fears and contacted the D.C. Fire Department. About 30 minutes later, a rescue group arrived.
“They pried open the doors as much as they could and slipped us a key for the elevator’s fireman control panel,” Violet said.
After engaging the panel, the firemen were able to break open the doors to the elevator. The girls jumped down from the elevator to the 12th floor, a few feet below them in the shaft.
The students were offered medical attention and were then permitted to return to their room.
Sala said she immediately contacted offices of President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and Property Management, both of which responded quickly to her complaint.
Rose Kirk of Property Management spoke to Sala following the entrapment.
“Trammell Crow, the property manager, sent the Delta elevator company to repair the elevator that same night,” Kirk said. “The elevator needed additional repairs after being broken into to extract the students.”
Kirk did not know of any recurring elevator problems in City Hall, saying this was an unusual case.
A similar incident occurred in early October in another City Hall elevator. Sophomores Daniel Mesznik, Sung Lee and Chris Kojzar were trapped at the fifth floor about midnight. The elevator then dropped quickly down to the fourth and then second floors, prompting the three students to pull the emergency alarm after they failed to manually prying open the doors.
“UPD and the fire department both had responded by 12:30 a.m.,” Mesznik said.
They were instructed to turn off the emergency alarm, which caused the elevator to drop quickly more than four flights down to the basement.
“I was afraid then that we were going to get hurt,” Mesznik said.
The students were freed after an hour in the elevator by a team of
about eight workers.
“UPD was really helpful,” Mesznik said. “They talked us through the whole thing, and we all stayed pretty calm.”
The victims of the second incident did not file a report. Mesznik said the elevator was repaired within days of the problem.