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YouTube Video Shows People Trapped In Elevator At 181st St. Subway Station

Claustrophobia Sets In Before FDNY Arrives On The Scene
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A firefighter speaks to passengers trapped in an elevator at 181st Street on April 8, 2011. (credit: YouTube)

A firefighter speaks to passengers trapped in an elevator at 181st Street on April 8, 2011. (credit: YouTube)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A group of 28 straphangers got the scare of their lives on Friday night.

They were riding a subway station elevator in Washington Heights when that elevator broke down. The ensuing ordeal and rescue were caught on cell-phone video, reports CBS 2’s John Metaxas, and later posted to YouTube.

Their elevator ride was supposed to take seconds, but it lasted more than an hour. They sat stuck midway between the subway station just under 181st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue and the train tracks of the 1 line 100 feet underground.

At first the mood was light, but as the clock ticked the claustrophobic air became oppressive.

Subway riders at these stations have long complained about these elevators, but they have no choice. It’s the only way to get to the trains below.

“There’s no air in there. There’s no air,” one straphanger told Metaxas.

“A lot of times the elevator feels like it’s falling,” rider Gersom Valdez added.

“I cross my fingers and hope for the best. They’re pretty outdated and out-moded,” another said.

The elevators are pretty large, but on Friday night the elevator was packed. Fortunately, those folks kept their cool despite the heat and help did arrive as a firefighter poked his legs through the hatch in the ceiling.

A little girl had to be comforted. She and her mother were helped up first and the rest soon followed.

Elevator safety expert Glenn Corbett said if you’re ever in such a situation it’s important to stay calm.

“Communicate outside the car through the push button or telephone and tell them how many people and let them know the condition if any are injured,” Corbett said.

“That’s very scary, man. One day a big accident is going to happen,” Valdez said.

No injuries were reported.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the problem with the elevator was caused by newly installed hoist ropes which were adjusted the next day. The elevator car is now back in service.

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