5 rescued after elevator malfunction at Grand Canyon Caverns


PEACH SPRINGS (AP) — Five people in a tour group have been rescued after spending more than 24 hours underground at the Grand Canyon Caverns due to an elevator malfunction, authorities said Tuesday.

Coconino County Sheriff’s officials said there were no reported injuries and nobody in the party suffered any medical issues requiring treatment on the scene Monday night.

The names and ages of the tourists weren’t immediately released Tuesday, but authorities said the group included a husband and wife and a second couple with two young children and at least two people were in their 70s.

Authorities said one man was able to take the emergency staircase to the surface to seek help prior to the other five people being rescued.

According to its website, the Grand Canyon Caverns is tourist attraction 12 miles  east of Peach Springs that allows visitors to tour inside an ancient cave, dine and stay in an underground motel.

A group were taking a 30-minute tour of the caverns around noon Sunday when sheriff’s officials said they were notified about 8:30 p.m. that people were stranded at the bottom of the elevator some 21 stories below ground.

After assessing the situation over the phone and with personnel from Grand Canyon Caverns, sheriff’s officials say it was determined that the stranded party could stay overnight in the hotel suite located in the bottom of the cavern while repair attempts were made on the elevator.

Around 10:30 a.m. Monday, sheriff’s official said they were notified the elevator repair was unsuccessful.

Members of the sheriff’s search and rescue unit, along with a Flagstaff Fire Department technical rescue team, responded to the scene and a technical rope rescue system was constructed in the elevator shaft around 2 p.m.

Rescuers said they used the emergency stairs and prepared the five people for the technical rope raising operation by securing them in a rescue harness, connecting the haul and belay ropes to the harness and raising them one at a time up the elevator shaft.

Authorities said the rescue was completed by 6 p.m. Monday.

“I can’t say thank you enough because they did everything so professionally, so safe,” Sherry Jimenez told Phoenix TV station ABC15 after she was rescued.