Carlsbad Caverns tourists stuck in elevator for 3 hours

March 27, 2018

FILE - This Dec. 18, 2010 file photo shows hundreds of cave formations that decorate the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns National Park near Carlsbad, N.M. Three visitors were stranded in an elevator hundreds of feet below the surface at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, officials said Tuesday, March 27, 2018. It took a rescue team more than three hours to reach the visitors and bring them to the surface of the popular tourist attraction in southern New Mexico. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Three tourists visiting New Mexico’s famed Carlsbad Caverns National Park were trapped in an elevator 740 feet (226 meters) underground for three hours after the elevator broke down, officials said Tuesday.

Rescue workers on Monday used harnesses to hoist the three out of the elevator’s escape hatch and transfer them to a working elevator, the National Park Service said in a statement.

No one was injured and those rescued — two Michigan residents ages 17 and 46 and a 66-year-old New Mexico woman — were in good spirits after they were lifted to the surface, the statement said.

Park rangers talked with the three while they were stuck inside the elevator, keeping them updated on efforts to get them out.

“This is the first time we’ve had to conduct an elevator rescue operation and it went smoothly because the inter-agency search and rescue team had just recently trained for this exact scenario,” said Tim Havens, a park service incident commander.

An inspection of the elevator that stalled indicated that a worn cable that sends signals to the elevator controls caused the problem, the statement said.

The breakdown means that there will be no elevator service at the park until the cable is repaired. Another set of elevators are being modernized following a 2015 breakdown.

Visitors can still hike inside the caverns through the park’s natural entrance.

It’s a 1.25 mile (2-kilometer) trek that’s equivalent to climbing 75 stories. It does not have access for wheelchairs, strollers or walkers.

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