Woman Who Was Trapped in Self-Storage Elevator for 14 Hours in Auckland, New Zealand, Considers Legal Action

Update 11/9/16 – Caroline Campbell, 56, the woman who was trapped inside an elevator at a Guardian Secure Self Storage facility in Auckland, New Zealand, last February, is accusing the storage operator and lift-maintenance engineer of negligence. The companies received a letter from Campbell’s attorney, Keith Young, in August, though a civil claim has yet to be filed in court.  

Update 11/9/16 – Caroline Campbell, 56, the woman who was trapped inside an elevator at a Guardian Secure Self Storage facility last February, is accusing the storage operator and lift-maintenance engineer of negligence. The companies received a letter from Campbell’s attorney, Keith Young, in August, though a civil claim has yet to be filed in court.

Lawyers for the engineer have denied any negligence, noting their client isn’t responsible for lift components, installation or workmanship, according to the source. The company had performed a routine service on Guardian’s equipment on Jan. 29, according to the source.

Since the ordeal, Campbell claims she has suffered anxiety, claustrophobia and insomnia. "Fourteen hours in a lift is nothing compared to how your brain processes it afterwards. It's taken months for me to get rid of some of that anxiety,” she told the source. “I don't want to over-dramatize it; it's not post-traumatic stress disorder. I am a reasonably calm and collected person, but I have been seeing a psychologist.”

Campbell was without food or water and said she was close to panicking on several occasions during her ordeal. She also stuffed cardboard in her ears because the alarm, which she intermittently triggered, was loud. "I had to calm myself. I thought I could have a panic attack and it's going to go really bad,” she said. “When I wasn't holding the alarm, I had a sharpie and some masking tape, so I did some poems and drawings on cardboard of my kids and grandkids to focus myself.”

Campbell, who’s self-employed, said she was prompted to take legal action because she felt she wasn’t being taken seriously. "The first week [Guardian was] great. They gave me a fantastic big hamper and a bouquet of flowers,” she said, adding the storage company reimbursed her for the time she missed from work.

Since then, no one has taken responsibility for the incident, she said. "Everybody is saying they did what they were legally obliged to do, but I think it's somebody's responsibility if you get trapped for 14 hours. The lift broke. The alarm broke, which meant the security company [wasn’t] notified,” Campbell said. "There might be somebody there at two in the morning, so make sure their well-being is safeguarded.”

Even though the companies have said they’re “very sorry,” there’s been no accountability, from Campbell’s point of view. “It just doesn't seem right. It seems unfair. I'd just like to be taken seriously and have my voice heard and for them to take some action."

A letter from the lift engineer’s lawyers claimed a switch failed, which stopped the lift immediately, as it was designed to do. It also indicated the phone wasn’t working because the power supply unit that’s connected to an automatic dialer also failed, the source reported. Without this connection, the alarm company wasn’t notified that an alarm was triggered.

"It is impossible for [the engineer] or any other lift technician carrying out regular servicing to pre-empt or prevent individual electronic component failure unless there have been reports of the lift playing up during normal use, and there had not been any such reports,” the letter stated.

King was unable to comment due to litigation. A lawyer representing the storage company said the matter was "being dealt with by the respective parties' legal representatives.”


2/15/16 – A woman was trapped overnight inside an elevator last weekend at a Guardian Secure Self Storage facility in Auckland, New Zealand. Although the unidentified woman, whose sister rents a unit at the facility, pressed the emergency alarm inside the elevator, the security service apparently didn’t receive the notification, according to a source. A male tenant called the fire department when he heard the woman screaming for help early Saturday morning. She was freed by emergency responders at about 8 a.m. after being stuck for 14 hours.

The Guardian facility on Foundry Road has four stories. The elevator apparently was stuck on the ground floor, but the woman couldn’t get the door to open. She didn’t have a cellphone, a source reported. Terry King, general manager for Guardian, told sources he had spoken to the woman, who was shaken but uninjured. The elevator was serviced last week, he said.

"The lift basically just stopped,” King told a source. “We own five facilities, and four have got lifts in them. What would usually happen is that there is an alarm system, and you push a button if the lift stops. It goes through to a security company, and the security company comes and obviously overrides the system and gets you out. In this case, for some reason, the alarm hasn't gone through to the security company, so no one [knew the woman] was in the lift until someone this morning found her."

King said he intended to visit with the woman on Saturday and would conduct an investigation into the incident. "We just have to take this one on the chin," he told a source.

Sources:

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