Chicago Elevator Drops 84 Floors After Rope Breaks: 'I Believed We Were Going to Die'

Passengers in a malfunctioning elevator were left shaken after plunging more than 80 floors in a 100-story Chicago building, eventually becoming suspended near the 11th floor and requiring an elaborate rescue operation by the fire department.

The incident took place in the early hours of Friday in Chicago's fourth-tallest structure, 875 North Michigan Avenue, previously known as the John Hancock Center. Six people took the elevator, including a pregnant woman, expecting to descend from the 95th-floor restaurant to the street, just after midnight.

Then, at least one of the main cables broke—and their nightmarish ordeal, which lasted several hours, began. No one required medical attention.

"At the beginning, I believed we were going to die," Jaime Montemayor, 50, a passenger who was visiting from Mexico with his wife, Mana Castillo, told CBS 2 Chicago. "We were going down, and then I felt that we were falling down and then I heard a noise―clack clack clack clack clack clack."

"It was a very long ride until we stopped," Castillo, 49, added, as she described the dirt and dust falling through the elevator's ceiling.

The passengers started "freaking out," according to a law student who was in the elevator and wished to remain anonymous. As they started introducing themselves to one another, there was a prayer circle, screams and tears.

When emergency services eventually arrived—after the trapped passengers had texted friends and called the building's security officers for help—firefighters were forced to cut a hole through the elevator shaft to pull the passengers to safety. The elevator was stuck in the 11th floor area, but it was an "express" elevator and so the 11th floor did not have access.

"They couldn't find us," the student told the Chicago Tribune. "We thought we only fell a few floors but we ended up falling 84."

"It was a precarious situation where we had the cable break on top of the elevator… [and] we couldn't do an elevator-to-elevator rescue—we had to breach a wall," Chicago Battalion Fire Chief Patrick Maloney told CBS 2 Chicago.

Larry Langford, a spokesperson for the Chicago Fire Department, confirmed to the Tribune that apart from one individual suffering from anxiety, there were no serious injuries. Langford also emphasized the size of the task.

"We don't like to have to go through walls unless it's absolutely necessary," he said. "The only other way to get to the elevator would have been ropes from the 97th floor, and that would not be safe. We don't come down like Batman, so we must go through the wall."

It later emerged that one of the hoist ropes of the elevator had broken—even though, according to CBS Chicago, the elevator had passed its annual inspection in July.