To the rescue
Firefighters help woman trapped in elevator
Staci O'Prey thought she was stepping into the elevator for a quick trip up to work on the third floor of the office building in the 6200 block of Stoneridge Mall Road on the morning of Jan. 18. The heavy doors started to slide close but didn't quite make it. Then the elevator stuck.
"My worst fear came true: The elevator froze," O'Prey recalled "I was panicked to say the least. A few people in the lobby tried to pry the doors open with no luck."
She called the elevator maintenance company but knew it would take awhile for a response. A co-worker noted her growing anxiety and pulled the fire alarm in the lobby.
A Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department crew from nearby Station 2 responded to find the 500 or so employees evacuated in the parking lot and the elevator still stuck -- with an increasingly distraught O'Prey inside.
"The door was open about four or five inches," O'Prey recalled Monday at Station 2 where she was bringing a cookie bouquet to the firefighters who came to her rescue.
"Instead of leaving, they stayed with me and kept me calm," she said. "They tried to open the doors with various techniques, probably pretending to do so just to keep me calm."
Two crew members were Capt. Jim Gill and Engineer Jon Sorci, who stuck his foot into the elevator door to reassure O'Prey that it wouldn't close.
"He put his foot in the door the whole time," O'Prey said, explaining that she is somewhat claustrophobic. "They calmed me down."
"His nickname is now 'the foot,'" joked Gill.
When the maintenance worker arrived, Sorci had to remove his foot and the door had to close in order for the elevator to be restarted, and the firefighters convinced O'Prey that she could handle this.
When she finally made it to her office at Pen-Cal Administrators, 45 minutes after first stepping into the elevator, O'Prey said she desperately wanted to thank the firefighters but was too afraid to ride the elevator back down to do so. But Sorci went up to check on her.
"He asked if I was OK," she remembered. "I thanked him and hugged him."
"Jon Sorci ('the foot') was truly my hero and I'll never forget his kindness," O'Prey said.
Gill said they responded to another stuck elevator later that day and that such occurrences are common.
"Usually it's when the power goes out," he said. "It's bad timing."
The good news is that he's never known people to be stuck in elevators for longer than an hour.