Monday, February 23, 2004

Fairfax County firefighters yesterday rescued five persons from a freight elevator that had fallen about 10 feet before getting stuck between floors in an office building in Baileys Crossroads.

The incident occurred just after 10 a.m. in the five-story building at 7 Skyline Place that houses the federal Defense Systems Information Agency (DSIA).

The five persons were in the elevator with two 1,000-pound safes, authorities said. The passengers suffered minor injuries, but one person struck by one of the security safes had to be removed from the elevator on a backboard. All were taken to Fairfax Inova Hospital for treatment of back and neck injuries.

One of the victims was a DSIA employee, and the others were contractors, an agency spokeswoman said.

Authorities said the passengers had been transporting the safes when the elevator fell, causing one of the heavy security safes to shift against one of the victims.

It took county firefighters about 45 minutes to free the victims, who were stuck between the fourth and fifth floors.

A firefighter rappelled down the elevator shaft from the building’s penthouse and reached the passengers through the hatch on top of the elevator, said Dan Schmidt, spokesman for the fire department.

“He was able to open the hatch and get the four people out under their own power,” Mr. Schmidt said. “Due to the nature of his injuries, the other one had to be taken out on a backboard.”

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is investigating the incident, but the heavy safes — each about 5 feet high and 3 feet wide — are thought to have contributed to the mishap.

Mr. Schmidt said the fire department responds to several hundred service calls involving elevator problems each year, but he did not know how many involved falling elevators.

Elevators are supported by multiple steel cables, each of which can support a fully loaded car, and have multiple braking systems, each of which can stop a full car.

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