A quick cigarette break by Business Week employee Nicholas White turned into a nightmare when his elevator stopped dead in its shaft and trapped him there for a crazy 41 hours—all of it caught on a security camera. It seems like all of the technological developments in elevator design, from Archimedes through Otis' security brake to modern 60-kph cars couldn't help him: even the alarm system didn't work properly. Though it happened a while ago, over at the New Yorker they're running a time-lapsed video of the security footage, and it will send chills down your spine, let me tell you.
White got into elevator car 30 to return to his office in the McGraw-Hill building on Sixth Avenue in New York. It was an express elevator, designed for traffic efficiency, with no stops below the 30th floor, and it jammed around the 13th late on a Friday night. He tried the intercom, sounded the alarm, tried to prize the doors apart and use the escape hatch (you're thinking about Speed now, aren't you?) but to no avail.
Faced with a blind wall behind the doors, no answer to the alarm or shouting and a locked hatch, he got desperate then depressed. He smoked the rest of his cigs, and worried about dehydration. Of course, with all the modern safety features like multiple hoist-ropes and speed brakes he wasn't going to plummet to his death. He was just stuck in a box barely big enough to lie down in. Rescue finally came 41 hours later, and no one knows why the jam happened.
After getting out, White never returned to another day of work. He filed lawsuits, settled for barely 6 figures, and lost his job, savings and apartment. Some would say the event ruined his life, to no fault of his own. He stepped in the elevator a man, and left on a trajectory towards shambles.
Eight different security guards failed to spot him on the camera. Wonder what would happen in a similar situation in the Burj Dubai with it's 46 separate elevators: two being double-deckers that will go the whole 156 floors? Probably a quicker rescue, we suspect.
Head over to the New Yorker to check out the full story and the chilling video: next time you're in an elevator, particularly one of those brand new "buttonless" ones, you'll remember it! [New Yorker]