Ariz. couple trapped briefly in Monument

Posted
Thursday June 2, 2011

BENNINGTON -- A couple traveling from Arizona to Maine had their stop at the Bennington Battle Monument extended a bit Thursday when the elevator car they were descending in became stuck near the top of the obelisk.

Carl and Darlene Henderson of Sun City, Ariz., had already enjoyed the sweeping views atop the stone structure that commemorates the Battle of Bennington when the elevator stopped just seconds into the descent. They were stuck in place for about 30 minutes until members of the Bennington Fire Department were able to free them.

Carl Henderson said firefighters pried the doors of the elevator car open and they were between floors. "It just stopped. When they opened the door we were eye level with the floor," he said.

Bennington Fire Chief Tyler Hollister said the Otis elevator has a crank at the top of the monument that allows the car to be manually operated. Each turn of the crank raises the car about an inch, he said.

"It’s real slow," Hollister said.

Mary Lou Chicote, the historic site administrator for the state, said the elevator was installed between 1953 and 1955. The monument’s steps were open to the public until 1970s, when it was determined it was unsafe to continue allowing the public to use them, she said.

Representatives from Otis were expected to be on site Thursday to examine the elevator and determine what happened, according to Chicote. "We won’t run it until we know," she said.

The elevator has experienced occasional problems, Chicote said, but no more than a typical lift. "All elevators at one time or another get stuck," she said.

Chicote said she planned to offer free mugs to the Hendersons for their trouble.

Hollister said the fire department has responded to the monument a handful of times to help free stuck patrons. Some have required more work, he said.

"We’ve had experience. Thank God every time we’ve been here there haven’t been any medical emergencies. They’ve all seemed to be happy when they come out," Hollister said. "We’ve had them up there where we’ve had six or eight guys cranking."

The couple was traveling to their summer home in Maine when the decided to stop at the monument because the Bennington Museum was not yet open. "I’ve driven through before and wondered what the heck it was," Carl Henderson said.

Despite the 30-minute extra stay, the couple emerged from the structure smiling, and said they were enjoying their time in Bennington.

"It’s a beautiful community. As we were driving in I thought, ‘How immaculate,’" Darlene Henderson said.


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