|By Michael Overall, Tulsa World,
Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
January 27, 2010--Trapped inside crowded elevators last year, hotel guests prayed together, shared drinks and practiced breathing exercises to ward off claustrophobia.
Now they might become witnesses in a district court lawsuit.
Open for only a few months after a $40 million renovation, downtown Tulsa's Mayo Hotel filed suit this week against the company that installed the elevators.
The hotel is demanding more than $150,000 in damages from the Schindler Elevator Co., which allegedly finished the installation behind schedule and with "numerous errors and omissions causing the elevators to malfunction."
The problems have been fixed, and the elevators now work reliably, said Eric Schelin, the Mayo's attorney.
Last November, however, the Mayo refunded $25,000 to the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice after elevator problems plagued the group's ritzy dinner in the 16th-floor Crystal Ballroom.
In one incident, an elevator suddenly dropped about 18 inches while people were trying to step on board.
Later, several dinner guests became trapped inside an elevator for 20 minutes, and a separate group remained trapped in another elevator for nearly an hour.
"It was a horrific experience, a nightmare," said Rebecca Marks-Jimerson, an administrator at Tulsa Community College who attended the OCCJ banquet.
Instead of taking the guests up to the ballroom, the elevator abruptly dropped about half a floor and then wouldn't move at all, Jimerson said.
At least 12 people were aboard, "elbow to elbow," she said. Claustrophobic, Jimerson took off her high heels, closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing.
"You hear about stuff like this all the time," she said, "but it's not something you can relate to until it happens to you."
The Tulsa Fire Department freed the guests after more than 50 minutes, she said.
But the problems didn't stop there. During a wedding just a couple of days later, the groom, a photographer and the photographer's assistant were trapped inside an elevator for about an hour.
At the company's North American headquarters in New Jersey, Schindler Elevator officials declined to comment specifically about the lawsuit because they hadn't yet seen the court filing.
"Safety and reliability are the cornerstones of our company," said spokeswoman Kathy Rucki. "Obviously, we're concerned when any customer is unhappy."
Michael Overall 581-8383 email@example.com
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