OK - Power Surge Traps Riders in Elevators

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Power Surge Traps Riders in Canal Elevators 08/20/2000

As if being in the heat wasn't bad enough, imagine being trapped in an elevator outside the Bricktown canal with seven other people.

Because of a power surge in Bricktown, two different canal entrance elevators shut down Wednesday with people stuck inside.

Gwen Zwick, 86, was one of those passengers who was taking a tour of the canal with Sue Sawallisch, 87, and a group from Union Bank.

Zwick and Sawallisch took the elevator down to the canal rides outside the entrance to the Bricktown Ballpark. Sawallisch wasn't able to easily take the stairs.

After the canal tour, the ladies decided to use the elevator to get back up to street level.

"We assumed we could go back up that elevator when it opened," she said. "Three more people got in, the door shut and we could not go anyplace."

Zwick said they were in the elevator for about 30 minutes. The passengers punched every button, but the elevator would not open or move. One woman started yelling for help.

"I just couldn't imagine why there wasn't something on the outside telling us not to use the elevator," she said.

By 11 a.m., the Oklahoma City Fire Department was called to use elevator keys to open the doors. The "drop keys" are poles placed in holes in the top of the doors which release the locking mechanism.

Fire department spokesman Brian Stanaland said one person was treated for heat exhaustion and taken to a local hospital for observation.

The fire department also rescued eight other people who were trapped in the elevator across from Chelino's Mexican Restaurant.

Oklahoma Parks and Recreation Department business manager Larry Ogle said there were reports that OG&E was working in the area but doesn't know if that caused the power surge.

"We're still trying to find out if it's a common occurrence so we can figure out if something can be done to prevent it from happening again," he said. "The cause may determine what can be done."

The surges burned out the circuitry panels in both elevators, which were running by the next morning. Ogle said a power surge during a lightning storm shut down the elevators once before.

As far as he knew, the chair lifts were not affected by the surge because the circuitry is different. The elevator company began to fix them within an hour of the rescue.

That doesn't pacify Zwick, who had to walk up the stairs in the heat instead. She said the elevator was a terrible hazard and hopes it doesn't happen again.

"You're in this small area and oxygen only lasts so long," she said. "I finally got tired of yelling and just started praying to myself."


-- (Dee360degree@aol.com), August 21, 2000

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