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Five Rescued After Being Trapped In Center City Elevator For Hours

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By Robin Rieger

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – “We thought it was going to be a five minute thing, they would push a button, and it would just start. Nobody thought we would be in there for four hours,” said Vanessa Olbrecht.

Olbrecht, an anesthesiologist who lives in the 1500 Locust apartments in Center City, was on call for work Sunday, but probably wouldn’t have made it in if she was needed. She spent her afternoon stuck — along with Sarah Blattner and three men — in an elevator they all boarded in the building’s lobby. One of the men was delivering food.

“We hit each of our floors, the elevator started to go up, and then all of a sudden, it stopped,” Olbrecht explained.

Somewhere between the first and 14th floor, the elevator got stuck. Vanessa took photos and described their attempt to get out.

“One of the guys pried the door open, and we’re facing a brick wall,” Olbrecht said.

“It was frustrating. It was scary because they kept saying, ‘Five minutes, five minutes,’ and it was four hours,” said Sarah Blattner.

Thanks to cell phones, they were able to call the front desk.

When the elevator company and fire department could not reset the elevator manually or with a key, workers came through the roof of the car with a ladder. All five people trapped inside were told they would have to use it to get out and get to the roof of another car, then get inside that car. That’s when real fear set in.

“It was pretty scary having to climb across, having to look down, realizing there wasn’t anything holding you up,” said Olbrecht.

“It was scary. If you looked down, it was a big drop,” agreed Blattner.

All she could think was … “That I don’t want to fall down the shaft.”

The women said no one panicked though. They shared the chips and drinks Blattner had brought into the elevator with her after a trip to the grocery store, and they got to know each other better.

“Thankfully, we were all calm, just sitting on the floor, hanging out,” Blattner explained.

Other residents told Eyewitness News that this was the second time in a week an elevator in the building got stuck. Blattner and Olbrecht also said that the elevators in the building are very slow.

Blattner just moved in three weeks ago, and Olbrecht is moving out in a week. She says she is grateful that her new place is a ground floor unit.

Staff working in the lobby and front desk would not comment.

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