6 rescued after elevator plunge in Chicago skyscraper gripped by 'panic'

Nov. 19 (UPI) — Six people trapped in a downtown Chicago skyscraper experienced a bit of panic when their elevator abruptly fell 84 floors when a cable broke.

They became trapped in the John Hancock Center, the city’s fourth-tallest, on Friday.

One passenger said the group was initially in a state of panic, but eventually calmed. Firefighters helped when they reached the elevator and broke through the wall, The Chicago Tribune reported Monday.

Because of the elevator’s “blind shaft layout,” there were no openings between floors, forcing Chicago firefighters to break through a concrete wall to get to the elevator car once they identified exactly where it stopped, WBBM-TV reported.

“At the beginning, I believed we were going to die,” Jaime Montemayor, who was on the elevator with his wife Mana, told the Tribune.

“We were going down and then I felt that we were falling down and then I heard a noise — clack clack clack clack clack clack,” the Mexico City resident added.

The elevator’s cable had broken, but was supported by other hoist ropes that prevented it from crashing to the bottom. The elevator fell from the 95th floor to the 11th. None of the six aboard were hurt.

“It was a precarious situation where we had the cable break on top of the elevator (and) we couldn’t do an elevator-to-elevator rescue we had to breach a wall,” Chicago Battalion Fire Chief Patrick Maloney said.

Firefighters eventually cut open a 5-foot-by-5-foot hole in the wall, allowing firefighters to access to top half of the elevator.

“They put struts up to make sure it can’t drop anymore, if anything were to happen,” Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. “Once they had the shoring and bracings in, they forced the elevator door open and placed a small ladder into the elevator.”

The accident is under investigation, Chicago City Buildings Department spokesman Gregg Cunningham said.

The group spent about six hours trapped in the fallen elevator.

The John Hancock Center opened in 1969 and has 100 floors. The tower stands more than 1,100 feet tall.

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