SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A group of Jazz fans became distressed and panicked after the Vivint Smart Home Arena elevator they were in got stuck for over an hour on Tuesday.
Marissa Perea, Amie Smith, Nissa Vegh and a group of their family members were celebrating Marissa’s husband’s birthday at the Utah Jazz game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. The group had booked a suite where they were enjoying themselves with food, drinks and watching the Jazz beat LeBron James and the Cavs with a final score of 100 to 92.
“We were having such a great time and then the kids were excited to get to the court,” said Nissa Vegh.
Included with their tickets was the chance to go down to the court after the game and shoot some hoops but there was a long line to take the elevator down to the court. Vegh says the kids were anxious and excited to get down there and wanted to take the stairs but the adults wanted to wait to keep the group together.
“Her [Marissa] dad and a couple other people weren’t into taking the stairs,” said Vegh.
When it was their turn they piled everyone into the elevator. Five kids, 16 adults including the arena attendant, all crowded into the elevator. The doors closed, it began to move and the unexpected happened.
“All of a sudden, a few floors down, there’s like a little kind of jolt, the doors open and then the door shuts and all of us are like, ‘oh, uh…,” says Vegh.
The elevator stopped moving and the group still reeling from the Jazz win weren’t too phased by their predicament. They took out their phones and began recording. Several were smiling and taking pictures. But as time drags on, 10, 15, 20 minutes later the group begins to get restless.
Smith saying family members were getting annoyed and agitated. Tensions were beginning to rise and so did the arguing. The elevator began to heat up, in the videos and pictures the group provided to ABC4 News you can see condensation begin to build on the metal doors. People begin to sweat, several are beginning to tear up and the mood inside dips. Someone even writes “HELP” on the condensation that has gathered on the door.
“The adults are completely drenched in their sweat, we turn around and some are taking their clothes off, we look at Josh, her [Marissa] fiance and he is literally grey,” said Vegh.
She adds several of the children were beginning to have panic attacks and Josh was going in and out of consciousness and almost falling over. The attendant with the group, they say, was trying to reach someone on the outside with his walkie talkie and remained calm. The group would constantly call for him to get an update on the situation, they said, that would help the group calm everyone down.
They say they also tried using their phones but they couldn’t get service and the group was growing more and more worried. After about an hour, the group said the doors opened and they instantly felt relief.
“When those doors opened you could feel the air come in because the air was so heavy,” said Marissa Perea.
The Salt Lake City Fire Department had responded to the scene and were able to get the doors open but they were still stuck in between floors, there was only a small opening. They said instantly people rushed to the opening to try to get out and fire fighters began pulling people out one at a time.
Medical personnel began evaluating each of them, pushing fluids and taking heart rates but no one had to go to the hospital. Everyone was released after a few minutes.
In hindsight, the group says they shouldn’t have packed so many people into the elevator but say in all the years they have attended games it is just standard practice for people to pile into the elevators.
Frank Zang, spokesperson for Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment says the incident happened around 9:45 p.m. and was resolved around 10:30 p.m. They say the arena’s safety desk is equipped with cameras and computers that monitor the entire arena and they were aware that something was wrong immediately.
“It was due to overcrowding,” said Zang. “The elevator itself went into safety mode. People were never in jeopardy but it can be a stressful situation.”
He says the elevator went into safety mode because it exceed the 3,500 pound weight limit. Zang says all safety protocols were followed to open the doors and the elevator attendant was with the group the entire time.
Zang adds nothing in the elevator broke and just had to be rest following the incident. The elevator was back up in operation the next day. Zang also says they warn people about crowding into elevators at the arena.
“We caution people of overcrowding and ask people to step off. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But we do want people to have an enjoyable safe time…we certainly apologize,” he said.
He says attendants were on hand after they got out to hand out water and Gatorade to help them re-hydrate and he apologizes for the incident.
The women said the group had a great time but the kids were kind of bummed they didn’t get the chance to go play on the court.