Tourists spend night inside Grand Canyon Caverns hotel after elevator breaks requiring rescue operation
While being trapped 200 feet below ground could be a scary situation, the group found themselves in better accommodations than most stranded cave explorers. The stranded group were able to stay in the $1,000-night cavern suite until their rescue.
COCONINO COUNTY, Az. – A group of tourists expecting a 30-minute visit to the Grand Canyon Caverns became stuck for nearly 24 hours after the elevator broke, leaving the visitors in the ancient caves.
While being trapped 200 feet below ground could be a scary situation, the group found themselves in better accommodations than most stranded cave explorers.
The popular natural attraction is available to visit for a quick tour, has a restaurant, and up to six people can stay in a two-bed suite for $1,000 a night. Couples can even get married at the Grand Canyon Caverns' "Wedding Chapel." The dry caverns were formed more than 65 million years ago and are the largest in the U.S., according to the Grand Canyon Caverns.
According to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, officials learned that five visitors were stranded at the bottom of the canyon elevator about 21-stories below the surface after the elevator malfunctioned.
The stranded party stayed in the hotel suite overnight located at the bottom of the cavern while attempts were made to repair the elevator.
"These folks were put in the suite they have down there and provided food and water and whatever they needed," Coconino County Sheriff's Office Public Information officer Jon Paxton told FOX Weather.
There is a fire escape stairwell, but physical limitations prevented the stranded group from ascending out of the caverns that way, according to Paxton.
Initially, it was thought the issue with the elevator was electrical. However, the elevator maintenance company was unable to get to the site until Tuesday, Paxton said.
On Monday morning, the stranded group was given the option to be extracted from the cavern by the search and rescue team or wait potentially "days" before the elevator was working again.
Members of the Sheriff's Office and Flagstaff Fire Department search and rescue teams used a technical rope system to harness the trapped tourists and lift them up the elevator shaft one at a time.
All members of the stranded party were back above ground by 6 p.m. ET Monday, and no one was injured, according to the Sheriff's Office.