Woman trapped in elevator for 1 hour
August 16, 2005
Alice Martinez was running late Tuesday, trying to meet someone in the El Dorado County office building in South Lake Tahoe where she was going to discuss a housing-related issue.
But instead of meeting with the county housing official, Martinez wound up in a 7-by-4-foot space for about an hour, stuck in the building’s elevator shaft after lightening caused a power outage at 6:18 p.m.
Solitary on the second floor and aided with a dim emergency light, Martinez pounded and kicked the elevator door until she was heard by Dr. Kang Lee, a dentist who was leaving the building for the evening.
“I heard her knocking on the door. She said she was stuck. I told her that help had been called and she was perfectly calm about it. Calmer than I would be,” Lee said.
With about 5 inches of steel that separated her from the outside world, the 59-year-old South Lake Tahoe woman grew agitated rather than fearful.
“I just want to get out of here,” Martinez said, about 30 minutes into being stuck.
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South Lake Tahoe Fire Capt. Doug Holcomb and Engineer Jim Drennan were faced with three choices. They could either wait for the power to come back on, wait for elevator technicians to return their phone calls or pry the door open manually.
A technician did call and explained to firefighters how to maneuver the elevator doors by cutting the elevator’s hydraulics. By doing so, the elevator moved Martinez from the second to the first floor, where the firefighters pried the doors open without damaging them.
Sipping a cup of water fetched to her by Kang, Martinez said she was “a little nervous” about the situation but having the dim light made it easier.
“If I didn’t have the light, I may have panicked,” she said.
After thanking the firefighters, Martinez said the next time she does business in a place with an elevator, she’d “take the stairs.”
Power on Takela Drive was restored at 7:17 p.m., five minutes after firefighters opened the door.
Sierra Pacific Power Company spokesman Karl Walquist said a transformer at a Stateline substation failed at about 6:20 p.m., leaving the area from about Stateline to Glenbrook without power. Walquist did not have an exact count of customers affected, but said it was likely a few thousand.
Most customers had power restored by 7:40 p.m.
The cause of the transformer failure remained under investigation, but may have been weather related, he said.
– Staff writer Elaine Goodman contributed to this report.