Claustrophobia Sets In Before FDNY Arrives On The Scene

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 They’re pretty outdated and out-moded,” another said.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.

What if you caught something like this on video? You can send us photos and videos, and tell us all about the news events happening right before your eyes by clicking on YouReport! on the homepage. Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

Comments (32)
  1. Major Variola (ret) says:

    A lone kamikazi bomber could take out a dozen plus an elevator? Feels good man.

  2. Kim England McGuirk says:

    All 30 victims were saved/. My husband put himself on top of the elevator shaft and stayed there to get all traped riders out. He told them he would not leave them and that the old and young were to leave first. He gets paid barely enough to live in, and yet the city is cutting wages. He works up in Washington hts where there are busy calls and virtually no rest. I get upset when people bad mouth the fd because their instincutual drive is to help others at the sacrifice of themselves. Whethere you like them or not, if you are trapped or in a fire, all they care about is getting you out safely.

  3. The truth says:

    Stupid People=Job security for first responders

  4. MrPhilip Philip Philips says:

    “Well” thank your hand phones, A lot of people live today because of them. Mortality is on the decline we are all getting closer to something that is coming. Something in a manner that we are already knowing but not speaking because the words have not assembled or rather gathered itself in an ensemble to flow with that all certain meaning. Let be the politician the prophet or the scholar, the words will divine the passage that it takes and come forth as the play in the pipers song.

  5. SevereArthritis says:

    bloombergisafascist: The stairs at these very deep stations are dark, steep, badly-maintained (trash, chipped/broken steps), and designed only for muggers! You ride in taxis or your own car, like Mr. Bloomberg in his massive SUV, but for those of us who are poor working people, and especially those of us who are handicapped but still working, elevators lessen pain. How often do YOU walk UP 3 to 6 flights of steep stairs????

  6. jeri says:

    can someone explain why they had to then get in another elevator and then that one looked, on the video, like it wasn’t moving either? why did the rescue take so long? also did someone call 911 to tell them they were trapped? or how were the authorities notified?

  7. Wolf says:

    ALL New Yorkers should totally avoid MTA and REFUSE to pay ANY kind of MTA tax. All this money MTA gets and Still we New Yorkers continue to suffer from dirty, unsafe stations, poor service and totally outdated equipment. Its time for NY to take a stand against MTA

  8. Bell Toller says:

    911 responds quicker to a wrong McDonalds Order.

  9. Steve says:

    What more concens me is the lack of stairs in this subway station… Isn’t that some sort of Fire Hazard?

    1. Tom says:

      I think this station is a couple hundred feet below the surface. There are no stairs.

      1. Fred Sanford says:

        Actually there are stairs . maybe 20 floors or so, I’ve walked them.

  10. Rational says:

    What a dumb response. What are you so filled with hate?

  11. C says:

    The thing that sucks about 181st subway stop is you have to take the elevator, stairs are not an option. I avoid getting on at this stop and will walk blocks just too avoid it.

  12. Tyrese Wiggins says:


    Get bent! Noone is interested in your paranoid fantasy life, lived out of your parent’s basement.

    1. Tyrese is an Idiot fool says:

      Tyrese, I have no idea who Hanky is. There is no one on this post called Hank, Hanky etc. You sound really stupid. Grow a brain fool .

  13. Travis says:

    The elevators are owned and operated by the government, what do you expect? Good, prompt service? Or something more like what you get at the DMV?

  14. nowaytoday says:

    MTA wants no involvement in feared of being sued so they lay it on FDNY laps. For an organization that wants or apparently needs lots of money to operate why dont they have their own rescue service? Pass the bill onto another entity.

    1. the government says:

      You the public demand that we the MTA pay the lowest bidder for the service the public demands. While this may seem like a money saving idea at first, the lowest bidder will use the cheapest parts and labor he can find. Now you know why nothing works like it should. You cheap bas-rods get what you pay for.

  15. Mike Merryman says:

    Public nudity was called for in this instance.

  16. Steve Janowski says:

    One of them was the Devil.

    1. Cathy Smith says:

      Who was the devil?

  17. Ticked off says:

    yeah, MTA has a procedure………….. it goes like this…………………………….
    DO NOT CALL F.D.N.Y. The fire dept. does too much damage saving innocent lives trapped in elevators!!
    they want their mechanics called first to repair, as the lives in the elevator suffer
    I can gaurantee that NO MTA exec, never waited 60 mins for a bonu$ check let alone in a hot elevator awaiting their underpaid technician!!!
    use your cell to call 9-11 before you video…

    1. Cathy Smith says:

      If there was service in the elevator, we would have

  18. jimmy says:

    Tell Bloomberg not to close any firehouses! No way no how! You never know when you’re gonna need em! Fortunately time was on the trapped occupants side. God forbid if their was a fire in the shaft.

  19. JOE BLOW KNOWS says:

    Be prepared to pay $4 a ride now can you say “LAWSUIT”

    1. joe blow says:

      Duh, winning

  20. Dan Te says:

    Riding the subways at less than $3 per ride….you get what you paid for.

  21. Peter Serra says:

    An hour is an awfully long period of time to be trapped in an elevator. Since FDNY had to respond it is apparent there is no elevator contractor on call, or elevator mechanic on duty to expedite rescue. One has to wonder what the heck is going through the minds of MTA management? Is there no forethought? No policy and procedure manual? No concern for those who may die or panic because of fear of enclosed spaces? Unfortunately, this unprepared response is normal. Thank God I no longer have to use mass transit; and thank God for FDNY

    1. Tom says:

      Yeah fear of enclosed spaces kills thousands every year!

    2. Num-nums says:

      Peter Serra,

      Thank God for Gorton’s Fish Stix as well!

    3. Colin says:

      They remained calm. Thats what you do. You might also think twice about jumping on a jam packed elevator. What happens when they stop?

      30 minutes is not unreasonable considering that elevators almost never fail

    4. Bridget says:

      Try 5 hours stuck in an elevator with 12 sweaty, stinking men during the hotest day in August with me as the only woman. Picture it. The late 80’s during a blackout due to a Con Ed substation fire. Ordinally, being stuck with 12 men on an elevator would be my dream. However, it turned out to be my nighmare LOL.

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