Chicago Elevator Plunges 84 Floors Followed By A Dramatic Rescue Of Six Passengers Inside

'It was really bumpy — it felt like a flight into Chicago.'

chicago's former john hancock tower
Scott Olson / Getty Images

'It was really bumpy — it felt like a flight into Chicago.'

An elevator at an iconic Chicago skyscraper plunged 84 floors with six people inside followed by a dramatic rescue that took nearly three hours, The Chicago Tribune is reporting.

In the wee hours of Friday morning, a handful of tourists left the Signature Room lounge atop the building formerly known as the John Hancock Tower. The building, the fourth-tallest in the Windy City, is now known simply by its street address – 875 North Michigan Avenue.

Among the six passengers who boarded the elevator for that fateful journey were two Northwestern University law students, Mexico City tourists Jaime and Maña Montemayor of Mexico City, and two others who asked not to be identified. The six boarded the elevator and pressed the down button, not knowing that they would begin a three-hour ordeal that could have taken their lives.

Jaime Montemayor says that the elevator began making a “clack clack clack!” sound before dust particles started settling into the room. Then the elevator plunged.

“I thought we were going to die.”

Once the elevator stopped – safely – the panicked passengers embraced each other and some prayed. Then, they realized they were trapped and didn’t know where they were. Somebody pressed the emergency call button.

The passengers didn’t know which of the building’s 95 floors they’d landed on, making rescue even more difficult.

“They couldn’t find us. We thought we only fell a few floors, but we ended up falling 84.”

And if that weren’t enough, there was the matter that this particular elevator was in what Chicago Fire Department officials call a “blind shaft,” meaning that neither the elevator proper nor the shaft in which it travels was easily accessible to firefighters.

Luis Vazquez, a friend of the trapped Mexican tourists, couldn’t understand how such a thing happened.

“This is the second-most important building in Chicago? And this is the third-most important city in the United States? In the 98 floors, they have no place to open any door? That is the craziest thing.”

Fortunately, the CFD was able to make contact with the people trapped inside, reassuring them that everything possible was being done to rescue them.

Three hours later, after a rescue effort that included drilling a 5-foot by 5-foot hole in a wall and putting struts beneath the car to prevent further falling, the passengers were free.

City Buildings Department spokesman Gregg Cunningham said that, against all odds, the elevator and two or three of its redundant safety mechanisms all simultaneously failed to work. The main culprit appears to have been the main cable pulling the car – that cable completely snapped.

The incident remains under investigation, and workers, residents, and tourists of the Chicago landmark will be using different elevators in different shafts until further notice.