Tourists get stuck 200 feet underground at Grand Canyon Caverns after elevator malfunction

Some tourists stuck underground for more than 30 hours

COCONINO COUNTY, Ariz. – Five tourists were rescued from the Grand Canyon Caverns Monday after being stuck 200 feet underground for more than a day.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office officials said they were notified at 8:30 p.m. Sunday that the group was stranded 21 stories below the surface due to an elevator malfunction.

A repair team working to fix the elevator was unable to get it working again.

Several members of the stranded group were able to climb 21 flights of stairs back to the surface Sunday evening but other members of the group were not physically able to climb the stairs.

Video of the incident can be seen in the media player at the top of this article.

One woman told ABC15 that she was stuck for nearly 10 hours with her five-month-old and two-year-old daughters. She was eventually able to climb out while members of the Peach Springs Fire Department helped carry her children.

The group that couldn’t climb the stairs was given access to a $ 1,000-a-night hotel suite located at the bottom of the cave. They were also served food from a small underground restaurant.

“There was no way in the world that we were going to be able to make it up,” trapped tourist Douglas Grashel told CNN. “I’ve got back surgery scheduled. My wife’s got two artificial knees and is having trouble with those.”

Sheriff’s office officials said by 10:30 a.m. on Monday all attempts to repair the elevator had not been successful and the group would need to be rescued.

“The members of the stranded party were raised up the elevator shaft via the technical rope rescue mechanical advantage system one at a time. Each raising operation took approximately 15 minutes to complete,” according to a press release.

Some of the stranded tourists said it was more like 25 minutes per person for the rescue.

All members of the group were rescued by 6 p.m. on Monday.

Grashel and his stepdaughter Sherry Jimenez told CNN they were stuck underground for more than 30 hours.

ABC15 reported that no injuries were reported, however, at least one family says they plan to take legal action.

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.