'We were just stuck there, helpless': Family rescued by SCDF after 3 hours in UOB Plaza 1 lift

The lift stopped at the fourth floor, before making a quick descent to the second. PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO, ST READER

SINGAPORE - What was supposed to be an enjoyable Sunday dinner turned into a distressing experience for a family after they got stuck in a lift for more than three hours.

A 74-year-old man, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chia, was in a lift at 6.30pm at UOB Plaza 1 in Raffles Place with his wife and daughter, heading to Si Chuan Dou Hua restaurant on the 60th floor, when he felt a sudden jolt. The lift stopped at the fourth floor, before making a quick descent to the second.

Mr Chia rang the alarm bell in the lift repeatedly to get help, while his wife tried to calm their 14-year-old daughter. When there was no response, the retired property developer called the phone number listed in the lift and was told a mechanic was on the way.

The family's relief was short-lived, as they were told 20 minutes later that the mechanic did not know how to tackle the problem.

Mr Chia said: "We were just stuck there, helpless, while waiting for another mechanic to try his luck."

The lights were still working in the lift, but the air-conditioning was cut off. Mr Chia called the building office to get updates and was told that another mechanic had arrived, but could not find a fix.

At 7.30pm, Mr Chia called the police.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said they received a call for assistance at around 7pm and found three people stuck in a lift carriage.

Mr Chia was told that they would open a hatch on top of the lift for the family to climb out.

SCDF said: “While the lift technicians at scene were working on the lift, SCDF firefighters initially wanted to open the emergency side door of the lift carriage.

However, the door was deemed unsafe for use to evacuate the three persons as it was partially obstructed by a metal beam within the lift shaft.

“SCDF firefighters subsequently gained access into the affected lift through a hatch on top of the lift carriage and used a ladder to assist the three persons to climb over into the adjacent working lift.”

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Mr Chia said: “It was dark on top of the lift, and crossing over to the other lift was scary. I was worried about my daughter, and I wondered what it would have been like if a family with young children was stuck in this situation instead.”

The SCDF officers helped them to get across and enter the other lift through its hatch.

After 3½ hours, the family was finally freed at 10pm. Mr Chia said the building manager came over to apologise for the incident. An ambulance was also at the scene.

SCDF said it assessed the family and no hospital conveyance was required. Although the eatery was closed by then, the restaurant manager, who had heard about what happened, invited the family in for a light meal.

Mr Chia said his family had trouble sleeping that night.

“We tried to laugh it off in a way, but whenever I closed my eyes, I would be reminded of how dark it was while we were crossing over to the other lift. With the way we were feeling, I don’t think we could have lasted another hour in there,” he added.

He said his daughter, who is in Secondary 1, still has some anxiety about the incident and did not want to go to school the next day.

Mr Chia said: “We made her go anyway. I think it’s good for her to be around her friends to try and forget about what happened.”

A spokesman for UOB told The Straits Times: “UOB deeply apologises to the family for their unpleasant experience. We activated the lift technician immediately when we were alerted to the incident ,while our staff were in constant contact with the family throughout.

“The lift lights and ventilation remained operational during the entire duration they were inside, and medical checks were rendered to the family the moment they got out from the affected lift.

“We have halted the operation of the affected lift, and are conducting a rigorous investigation of the technical issue. We also thoroughly inspected the rest of the lifts in UOB Plaza 1 immediately after the incident.”

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