Michigan family on spring break gets trapped in New Mexico cave elevator

Source: CNN

A Michigan family's spring break trip is one they'll likely never forget.

The mother and son got trapped in an elevator, 700-feet below ground in New Mexico’s Carlsbad Cavern National Park. They were trapped for three hours with just one bottle of water and no food, surrounded by nothing but stone and dirt.

"It just seemed to weird, it was a very sudden jolt and then when we looked out the window it was nothing but solid rock around us,” Kiersten Gawronski said.

Far from Michigan, Gawronski and her 17-year-old son Oliver Chapman, along with Gawronski’s aunt, decided to check out the national park, but the unthinkable happened.

"It just seemed so weird and uncharacteristic to end the elevator ride with just such a jolt and then see nothing but rock. And so, I thought it was strange. But I realized very quickly that this was not normal,” Gawronski said.

Gawronski said a kind voice on the other end of the elevator's service phone made the situation bearable.

"And a very nice park service person named Charlie answered. And I said, 'I think we're stuck,' and he said, 'yes ma'am you are, we are aware of it and we're working on it right now,’” Gawonski said.

She said Charlie, a bottle of water, adrenaline, and a few spot-on jokes got them through.

"We didn't have food but we weren't hungry. Mostly we spent a lot of time joking about our situation. We're big fans of the TV show 'The Office.' And there's a particular episode where something slightly similar happens to two of the characters. Dwight and Pam are stuck in an elevator and Dwight establishes a pee corner. So, we joked about that,” Gawonski said.

Thankfully that wasn't necessary, but an action-packed rescue did happen.

"The fireman came in the cars with us and helped us harness up and of course cross over to the working car. The Park Service Ranger, I wish I knew his name, he rode on top of the working elevator all the way down in the dark 750 down to where we were and rode back up on top of the cart in the dark all the way up. I just can't believe, that man must have nerves of steel,” Gawronski said.

Back on solid ground, they said they're still planning to head back to Carlsbad Cave as soon as possible.

"YES! Yea, we wanted to go back that next morning. But, we called and the elevators were still out of service so at some point, someday in the future we will get back to Carlsbad Caverns,” Gawronski said.

An inspection of the elevator indicated a worn cable that sends signals to the controls caused the problem. The elevator will remain out of commission until the cable can be repaired.

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