Atlantic City firefighters rescue 14 stuck in elevator — one by one

Firefighter Brian Maiese is lowered to the stuck elevator.

Jessica Gazerwitz was ready to celebrate her 21st birthday at a club in Atlantic City on Saturday night.
Then, the Monmouth County woman along with friends and family piled into an elevator at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino, and wouldn’t emerge until Sunday morning.
The elevator got stuck between the sixth and seventh floors, trapping the 14 would-be party-goers inside. The next opening wasn’t until the 15th floor, so firefighters had to use a rope system and harness to lift the 14 people more than 100 feet to safety, one by one, Fire Chief Scott Evans said. Each trip took about 15 minutes.
They came out of the stuck elevator hot, tired and big fans of the Atlantic City Fire Department.
“The department was nothing short of amazing,” Gazerwitz told BreakingAC on Monday. “They did everything in their power to make sure each and every one of us was safe and secure before getting us out, and did the same thing once we got out. Very kind and amazing people.”
Gazerwitz said they got onto the elevator at about 11:45 Saturday night. She was the second one pulled up, at 2:30 Sunday morning.
“I asked what took so long, and (the firefighter) said they responded in three minutes,” she said. “The hotel did not call right away, they tried to fix it themselves.”
Firefighters were called at 1 a.m., according to a union representative who explained the issue on a Facebook post.
“Prior to our arrival, the elevator company was called and we were told a technician would be there within the hour,” the post reads.
But after waiting an hour and 15 minutes with no reply to multiple messages, “a calculated and thought out decision was made to begin rope rescue operations due to the rising anxiety and stress along with a need for some of the occupants to use the bathroom,” the union wrote. “Using an adjacent elevator was not an option.”
“It was frustrating,” Gazerwitz said. “It was super hot in there. Everyone just wanted to get out of there so it was getting tense.”
Firefighter Patrick Shields, was the first one down, and stayed in the elevator until the last person was out.
Then, Firefighters Thomas Higbee and Brian Maiese were lowered down and hauled up with victims.
Water was brought with them, Gazerwitz said, helping with the heat.
The operation was led by Battalion Chief Shannon Stinsman, Ladder 2 Capt. Ariel Beltran and Rescue Capt. Bernard Fox led the operation.
“You did what needed to be done and made us feel safe in one of the most stressful situations,” one occupant, Amy Lynn, wrote on Facebook. “It was awful but could have been a lot worse if you guys weren’t there.
The last person didn’t get out until 6:30 a.m., Gazerwitz said.
Not only did she not get to the club, she didn’t get to stay in the suite she paid for either, she said.
“From there, we got kicked out,” Gazerwitz said.
“They assumed every person that was stuck in the elevator with me was staying in the room I paid for,” she said, adding that was not the case. “Several occupants were staying at different hotels and they never asked, just assumed and made us all leave.”
No one from Tropicana could be immediately reached for comment.