“Going Down?” students stuck in Brottier elevator

Courtesy of Brooke Martineck | On March 25, six students got trapped in an elevator in Brottier Hall. After waiting over an hour, the students were rescued by an Otis Elevator Services maintenance man. The elevator stopped in between floors as part of an emergency feature. The maintenance man pulled each student out one at a time.

Megan Trotter | News Editor

On March 25, Duquesne students Mia Marinelli and Brooke Martineck boarded the Brottier Hall elevator on the sixth floor while live streaming the new episode of the Bachelor on their phones. They hit the button for the 14th floor expecting to go up.

They did not.

The elevator stopped around 9 p.m. with five Brottier residents and one visiting guest stuck. The elevator malfunctioned and slowly dropped from floor 10 to floor two.

“All the buttons shut off, and then we just slowly dropped all the way down to in between [the] second floor and the lobby level, and then there was just a loud noise, and then we were just stuck there,” Marinelli said.

The elevator stopped in the middle of the two floors and, unable to get out, the students sat down on the floor and waited for help.

Lumina Communities partners with Duquesne University in management of the Brottier Hall building and its operations. Lumina said the elevator responded to the malfunction by deploying the expected safety features.

“On March 25, 2024, no elevator ‘drop’ was reported,” Lumina said in an email to The Duke. “An elevator was immobilized between floors due to an issue that required a visit by a service technician. The immobilization is a safety feature that worked as it is supposed to.”

The Brottier elevators are maintained by Otis Elevator Services, one of the largest elevator manufacturing and service companies in the world, which also services the other elevators on Duquesne’s campus.

“All Brottier Hall elevators regularly pass inspection by the relevant state agencies. Certificates are available in the elevator cars themselves, as required by law,” according to an email from Lumina.

Lumina said in an email that the students were stuck in the elevator for approximately 45 minutes. However, the individuals inside the elevator said they believed they were in the elevator for over roughly an hour and a half.

The six students passed the time by answering icebreaker questions and trying to stay calm.

Zachary Seddon has lived in Brottier for a year and has had three separate occasions where he ended up being stuck in the elevator l, with the first in October, the second in December and then, most recently last month.

“It was around 8 o’clock when the elevator had stopped on the 10th floor and descended, and I believe it was around 9:15/9:20 when we got out of the elevator,” Seddon said.

In addition to the floor buttons, they said the cameras and their audio were not working.

“There were people that kept hitting the call button, trying to talk to them,” Marinelli said. “The first time that we hit the call button it rang, and I don’t think anyone answered so [a] couple minutes later, they hit the call button again.”

Pressing the call button multiple times received only silence or an automated message.

“The call button rings to DUPD [Duquesne University Police], who monitors the elevator call button 24 hours per day. DUPD received the initial report of [the] incident,” Lumina said in an email.

Seddon said they hit the operator call button around three to four times before someone answered.

“As time had gone on, it was just very frustrating because nothing was happening. We weren’t hearing anything. It was very stressful,” Seddon said.

Many of the students in the elevator began to get anxious and stressed out.

“The public safety guy who ended up just working with us was … genuinely really nice about the situation,” Seddon said. “[Public safety operator was] very visibly frustrated with the situation.”

The operator ended up giving Seddon his personal cell phone number due to issues resulting from the button’s failure.

“The help button wasn’t really working and we couldn’t really hear and it … was kind of hard to communicate,” Marinelli said.

The students said that at some point a person, who did not identify themselves, came and shone a light into the top of the elevator. They recall the man remarking his surprise that they were still stuck before leaving and not returning.

“They asked us like we were all good and then they just left,” Marinelli said.

While there were no injuries sustained in the initial drop of the elevator, multiple students in the elevator began to feel nauseous and overheat.

“There was a point toward the 40-minute mark, I believe, where we had all started to get light headed, and it was starting to get very warm in the elevator,” Seddon said. “I remember saying to him [public safety operator] it’s getting really hot in here. Some of us are getting lightheaded; only two of us have water.”

Lumina said, however, that there was no official report made by Duquesne University Student Housing and Residence Life that stated medical attention was needed or requested by any residents.

When an Otis maintenance employee did show up, he had to pry open the doors of the elevator and pull each student up and out of the elevator onto the second floor.

“I had bruises all over. I had some on my legs. And then I also had three, what looked like fingerprint bruises, from the guy trying to pull me out,” Martineck said.

To greet the students once they were evacuated was a Brottier resident assistant, who took their names. There was not an officer or medical assistance present.

Seddon said he ended up going to Health Services the next day because he was finding it difficult to focus and sleep after the stress of the incident.

“This type of incident is not recurring but did require a reset of some of the elevator controls. Elevators are designed with numerous safety redundancies to protect occupants, and those safety measures performed exactly as they should whenever sensors find anything amiss. While it was certainly stressful for the students involved, it is not that rare an occurrence and it was handled correctly,” Lumina said in an email.

Seddon and other students were frustrated that there seemed to be no further concern expressed to the group following their experience.

“I don’t think there was ever an email sent out about an issue with the elevator,” Seddon said. “Actually no one from residences life actually checked up on us, which is kind of frustrating.”

Another Brottier resident Xzavier Sciaretta, who has lived there since the fall, said he has also been stuck in the Brottier elevators once, and that he frequently hears other students experiencing the same issue.

Sciaretta will be moving to the Forbes apartments next semester.

Seddon also said that with the semester ending many students won’t be renewing their leases due to issues such as the elevators in Brottier.

“Good luck to people who live here next year,” Sciaretta said.