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Emily Crace just wanted to eat pizza with her boyfriend, Reid Johnson, on a Saturday night. When they left Crace’s room on the eighth floor of Champions Court I, they took an elevator down to the lobby on the second floor. They did not expect to fall two floors. 

“It went from (floor) eight to seven fine,” said Johnson, a biology freshman. “And then right around when the number said ‘seven,’ it started rumbling.” 

Elevator Malfunctions

Johnson said the elevator then dropped. When the elevator stopped falling around the fifth floor, Johnson pressed the emergency call button in the elevator. 

“This is the part where I sat in the corner ... and a panic attack had ensued,” said Crace, a journalism freshman. 

When someone answered their call, Johnson gave their location and explained they were stuck in an elevator that just fell. Crace said during this time, she felt the elevator drop a little more. 

Eventually, the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor and both Crace and Johnson escaped. 

“If (the elevator) fell more than two floors, we could have been injured,” Crace said. “That’s what scares me the most. Thinking about it after, I just imagined it plummeting all the way down without stopping.”

They took the stairs down to the lobby where almost ten other people told Crace they heard the elevator rumble and fall in the elevator shaft. Crace’s resident adviser tried to comfort her.

Crace said the incident happened the date of the Bluegrass Stockyards fire, Jan. 30. Her RA later attributed power flickers at UK caused by the fire as the reason the elevator in her dorm dropped. EdR Director of Operations Carl Dieso wrote in an email to the Kentucky Kernel that momentary laspes in power can cause the lights to flicker and even trigger a restart for the elevators.

Sarah Nikirk, associate director of auxiliary services, wrote in an email to the Kernel that UK has not investigated Crace and Johnson’s fall. 

“The resident staff in Champions Court I received no reports about this incident and have no documentation of any elevator issues that day,” Nikirk wrote. 

For UK’s elevators to fall is “extremely rare” according to Nikirk. Lexington Fire Departments records indicate at least 13 incidents of people stuck in an elevator the past year. 

Nikirk wrote that the elevators have built-in safety precautions. If an elevator lost power, for example, brakes and secondary emergency brakes will set and the elevator can only resume movement when there is power. 

“Even under the most catastrophic of events, such as all the cables breaking at once, allowing an elevator to free-fall, which by the way hasn’t happened since the 1940s ... there are additional safeties in place that will automatically set and stop an elevator from over speeding in the down direction,” Nikirk wrote. 

Nikirk wrote that elevators in residence halls are inspected annually by the state inspector and monthly by the contracted elevator vendor. She also wrote the best way for students to report incidents is to use the emergency button in the elevators, like Crace and Johnson did. The call is answered by the 24/7, 365-day call center, FIXIT.

“Once FIXIT is notified of the trapped passengers in EdR-managed buildings, the 24/7 call center contacts the maintenance manager via phone,” Nikirk wrote. “If it is a UK-managed building, we call the building operator during normal hours, and if it is after hours, an email is sent to the emergency listserv only.”

Johnson and Crace have since used the elevators in Crace’s dorm, but they said they wish the fall had been investigated further. 

“I think that is just an inherent problem of using an elevator,” Johnson said. “It’s bound to get stuck eventually.” 

Editor’s note: Emily Crace is a designer at the Kentucky Kernel.