It’s a nightmare thought for many people — getting stuck in an elevator.
Friday night, that nightmare became a reality for eight people headed up the 56-storey Calgary Tower when they needed to be pulled out of a damaged elevator in what Calgary Fire calls a “high-angle rescue.”
‘Banging like fireworks on top of us’
They had filed into the elevator, hoping to have a late dinner or drinks at the top of the tower. Jessica Dube is from Calgary and she and her boyfriend were hoping to see the sunset from the observation deck around 9:30 p.m.
“As we started going up, it started shaking,” Dube said in an interview with CBC News. “All of a sudden we heard the cable snap and just a whole bunch of banging like fireworks on top of us. The whole car just shook and we dropped,” Dube said.
Calgary Fire confirmed two of the six cables supporting the lift snapped.
Though everyone in the elevator was nervous, Dube said first responders were called and the eight strangers started getting to known one another to calm themselves down. Several of the people on board were from out of town.
Meanwhile, the heat rose in the elevator with little airflow. Dube guesses it was over 30 C before their rescuers came.
But then the scariest moment of the evening. Even as first responders on site tried to figure out how to get the occupants out of the elevator, it dropped again.
“That’s when everyone really panicked,” Dube said. “When they said there was 17 firefighters on hand and emergency crews, it got more intense and people were crying and calling their parents and stuff, almost as a goodbye. And a lot of people in there had kids back home. It just became a really scary situation. Everyone kind of lost control.”
“It definitely was a lot more intense after the second drop.”
A ‘high-angle rescue’
Calgary Fire’s Technical Rescue Team then performed what they call a “high-angle rescue.”
Everyone was asked to don a harness before climbing up a ladder lowered into the broken elevator through the ceiling. After climbing onto the top of the first elevator, a second one was brought alongside it and the occupants had to shimmy over before then going down a second ladder into the functioning lift.
“I had flip flops on and a dress, so I definitely wasn’t prepared to jump elevators,” Dube said. “So I think I was just really scared of slipping and falling … I just try not to look down and try not to look up and just kind of focused on just getting across.”
Through everything, Dube said the rescue team was phenomenal.
“The fire crew team was really good and reassuring, and standing by — the group of them — holding your hand and guiding you over.”
While all of this was going on, people who had been at the top of the tower had to take the 802 stairs to get down.
“Some of them needed to be taken down in chair stretchers, as well,” said Alistair Robin, A Platoon battalion chief.
In the end, no injuries were reported. But for Dube and her boyfriend, they’re taking the stairs for now.