Charlottetown woman trapped in elevator during power outage

Kelli Kneebone stuck moments after pressing down button at Kent Plaza apartment building on Kent Street

Nigel Armstrong
Published on August 4, 2014

Kelli Kneebone and her boyfriend Dave Howatt walk to a nearby store to get some bottles of cold water moments after Kneebone was released from an elevator Monday. The door of the elevator at Kent Plaza in Charlottetown had just shut when the power went off in Charlottetown. By chance, behind them in the photo, an elevator service van passes the intersection of Queen and Kent streets.

©THE GUARDIAN/Nigel Armstrong

The power bumps and outages Monday in Charlottetown left one woman stranded in a pitch-black, sweltering-hot elevator for close to an hour.

Kelli Kneebone was just getting ready to descend from the third floor to the lobby of Kent Plaza apartment building on Kent Street just minutes after 2 p.m. She was going to meet her boyfriend Dave Howatt who was on his way over.

"I went into the elevator and pressed the button to go down, the door closed then everything went completely black, pitch black," Kneebone told The Guardian moments after she got free.

She has a small flashlight on her key chain, thanks to Howatt who gave it to her once as a gift and she used that.

Kneebone picked up the phone in the elevator.

"You could hardly hear it," she said. "It was very faint so then I just called 911 with my cell phone."

She also called Howatt and told him what happened and he was there moments later, as were firefighters.

She leaned against the wall, got hotter and hotter with the increasing heat because no fan system was active in the elevator car, and talked with the people gathering just inches away in the hall.

A call to the elevator company revealed that the service van was in the west part of the province.

Not being a modern elevator system there were no standard working key systems on each floor that allow authorized people to slide open the doors of stalled elevators that are at a safe, floor level.

Firefighters, it turns out, do not have technical training to work with elevator systems directly for a rescue when a technician is not on site.

"It was so hot," said Kneebone of her experience. "The firemen said I was dehydrated. Just hot, hot, hot, and dizzy. I was feeling faint."

About half an hour into the ordeal, and still no technician, firefighters were getting ready to pry the doors open with extraction tools, but waited for Tim Mayme, deputy fire chief of the Charlottetown Fire Department to arrive to assess that damage-causing action.

At about the same time Mayme arrived, so did a service technician from Otis Elevator who was in the Charlottetown area and had been contacted to help as a closer available service unit.

Between the work of the technician and a brief return of power, the doors were opened and Kneebone stepped up and out, drenched in sweat and shaking.

"At the end of it I could not breathe and I got very dizzy," she said. "I was praying a bit. I have a lot of faith in the Lord cause if I didn't, I probably would still be there."

She doesn't plan on taking the elevator again.

"I'll be walking the stairs," she said.

"When the power goes out, (elevators) are not going to free fall," said Mamye. "They are going to stop where they are at.

"If they are at the floor, we pry the door and help them out which was going to be the case here.

"If we have a medical emergency inside, because of any sort of issue, we can immediately do that, otherwise we tend to wait for the technician so we don't do damage unduly," said Mayme after the rescue was over.

"In the run of a year, we probably get ten elevator calls," he said.

"I have been and will again investigate some (elevator) training," said Mayme. "We do familiarization throughout the year."

Charlottetown fire department members trained recently with the technicians for the new elevator system installed during renovations at the Delta Prince Edward hotel, said Mayme.

On Monday Kneebone wasn't the only call for a trapped person in an elevator. No sooner had the technician arrived at Kent Plaza than the firefighters gathered up their tools and walked over to the government office complex where there was also a report of someone caught in an elevator.

That turned out not to be the case by the time they arrived.

"Just scary, terrifying," said Kneebone, of her experience. "It was just like a sweatbox."