COCONINO COUNTY, Ariz. - Five people touring the Grand Canyon Caverns over the weekend were rescued after they became stuck when the elevator that took them more than 200 feet underground broke down.
They were underground for 30 hours.
The Coconino County Sheriff's Office says they were notified at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 of a group of tourists stranded 21 stories below the surface due to a malfunctioning elevator.
There is an emergency staircase that leads out of the caverns, but the sheriff's office said the tourists were unable to climb the stairs.
The trapped tourists stayed in the cavern's underground hotel and restaurant while workers tried to fix the elevator.
On Monday, the sheriff's office learned that the elevator still had not been repaired, and the tourists would need to be rescued.
A search and rescue team responded to the caverns and used a rope to pull the tourists up the elevator shaft to safety.
The tourists were evaluated at the scene. None of them required any medical treatment.
The Grand Canyon Caverns are about 100 miles west of Flagstaff.
Family talks about their experience of getting stuck
Michael Jimenez and his family were visiting from Kingman when the unthinkable happened.
"We got in the elevator, like me and my whole family, and the guy started pressing the button. Nothing happened, nothing happened. So we all got out … the whole thing just started filling with smoke. Everybody backed out of there," he said.
He and his dad were able to climb the emergency stairs out, but not everyone in the group was able to. So, they brought food and supplies back down into the caverns where the family spent the night in an underground hotel.
"With all the supplies, like formula, diapers, everything, and we went down. We asked them like, 'Did you guys even attempt to call anybody to help us? Because there’s no service trucks, nothing going on," Jimenez said.
It was a terrifying situation as they waited for help.
"I’m telling you that was stressful. I was sad," he said.
Multiple rescue crews arrived to help, including the Coconino County Sheriff's Office. Rescuers placed harnesses around a few of the family members and lifted them up through the elevator shaft using a mechanical system.
It took about 15 minutes for each rescue.
"They pulled my grandpa, my mom, and my grandma out by hoist," he recalled.
Five people touring the Grand Canyon Caverns over the weekend were rescued after they became stuck when the elevator that took them more than 200 feet underground broke down.