5 trapped in Center City elevator for hours

CENTER CITY - August 12, 2012

Sarah Blattner and Vanessa Olbrecht were among the five stuck in the elevator at the 1500 Locust Apartments.

Their ordeal began just after 1:00 p.m.

"We got in, we hit each of our floors, the elevator started to go up and then all of sudden it stopped," Olbrecht said.

They opened the doors to a cinder block.

Hours went by, but the elevator repairman could not get the elevator working.

"It was very frustrating and scary because they kept saying five minutes, ten minutes we'll be there and it was four hours," Sarah Blattner said.

Philadelphia firefighters who were called in would have to come up with another plan.

Making the rescue more troublesome, they were dealing with a blind elevator shaft, meaning there were no exits between the first and fourteenth floor.

"The problem was we had a blind shaft; you jump on the elevators, it takes you to the 14th floor. They were stuck somewhere between the second and third floor [with] no access, no doors," Battalion Chief Bob Lewandowski said.

For the stranded passengers, the real scare came during the rescue.

Firefighters decided the best option would be to ride down in an elevator car in an adjacent shaft then create a makeshift bridge and have the stranded residents climb out of their car to the operational one.

"It was pretty scary having to climb across and looking down and realizing nothing was really holding you up," Olbrecht said.

"I think I was more scared when we were climbing across the elevator shaft," Blattner said.

The fire department says such rescues happen, but are very rare.

"Usually the elevator guy gets it working. There's a computer up there, he resets it, but he couldn't figure this one out. It's very rare we do this, but sometimes it just happens," Lewandowski said.

It is not yet clear why the elevator broke down.

The Philadelphia Fire Department did not know if the building was up to date on its elevator inspections.

Action News tried to talk to apartment management, but it had no comment.

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