Elevator in N.Y. That Trapped Housekeeper for 3 Days Had Bad Motor

By VERENA DOBNIK | February 4, 2019

Officials say the private elevator that broke down inside a Manhattan townhouse and trapped a housekeeper for three days had a faulty motor.

A woman stuck for three days and nights in the private elevator of a Manhattan townhouse owned by a billionaire investment banker was rescued, police said.

The woman worked for the family of the banker as a housekeeping employee, was found to be dehydrated but in stable condition at Weill Cornell Medical Center, they said.

The townhouse is owned by a billionaire investment banker Warren Stephens.

The buildings department also said the emergency phone inside the elevator wasn’t working. The agency said it issued three violations for the defective elevator.

Firefighters freed the 53-year-old woman last week after responding to a 911 call and forcing entry into the lift. She told them she’d been trapped since last Friday while the owners were away for the weekend.

Authorities responded to a 911 call at about 10 a.m. Monday from the home on East 65th Street, near Central Park. Firefighters freed the woman after forcing entry into the elevator that had stalled between the second and third floors of the five-story property.

The woman, Marites Fortaliza, of Queens, told authorities she’d been trapped since Friday while the owners were away for the weekend.

The 911 call came from inside the home but authorities did not say who made it.

Police did not suspect any foul play, but reported incidents of being stuck in an elevator for so many days are rare in New York City.

In 2005, a Chinese restaurant worker was trapped in a Bronx elevator for about 80 hours. And in 1999, a man spent 40 hours in a Manhattan office building elevator before he was seen on a security camera.

The New York Post reports that the Department of Buildings inspected the elevator last week and determined that it had stalled after its hoist motor suddenly burned out. No violations were found during the last inspection in July, according to city Department of Buildings records.

The stately 1920 townhouse with a garden was purchased for $8 million in 1999 by Warren A. Stephens and his wife, Harriet Stephens.

Later Monday, the family issued a statement calling Fortaliza “a valued member of the Stephens extended family for 18 years.”

They said they were “relieved and thankful that she is doing well in the hospital,” and added that “appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

Warren Stephens, 61, is the chairman, president and CEO of Stephens Inc., an investment bank based in Little Rock, Arkansas. He’s estimated to be worth $2.6 billion on Forbes’ list of the world’s top billionaires. The firm, started by Stephens’ uncle, underwrote Wal-Mart’s public offering in 1970, and backed the bonds for the Louisiana Superdome. The Stephens family occasionally kept company with Bill and Hillary Clinton in Little Rock.

(Associated Press writer Mike Sisak contributed to this report.)

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