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Peach Springs AZ,
On October 23rd at approximately 8:30pm the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office was notified about a potential rescue at Grand Canyon Caverns for a party that was stranded at the bottom of the elevator, approximately twenty-one stories below surface level, due to an elevator malfunction. The stranded party was not capable of self-evacuating using the emergency staircase. After assessing the situation over the phone and with personnel from Grand Canyon Caverns and a Coconino County Sheriff’s Office deputy sheriff on scene, it was determined that the stranded party could stay overnight in the hotel suite located in the bottom of the cavern while repair attempts were made on the elevator.
On October 24th at approximately 10:30am the Sheriff’s Office was notified that the repair to the elevator was not successful and that the party at the bottom of the cavern would need rescue assistance. Ten members of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit-Mountain Rescue Team, along with four members of the Flagstaff Fire Department Technical Rescue Team responded to Grand Canyon Caverns to conduct the rescue. Upon arriving on scene at approximately 2:00pm the situation was assessed and a technical rope rescue system was constructed in the elevator shaft. Rescuers made access to the location of the stranded party via the emergency stairs and prepared them for the technical rope raising operation by securing them in a rescue harness and connecting the haul and belay ropes to the harness. 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. Once on the surface the members of the party were evaluated by personnel from the Sheriff’s Office and the Flagstaff Fire Department. None of the party suffered any medical issues requiring treatment on scene. The rescue was complete by approximately 6:00pm.
This operation is an example of the benefits of close working relationships between Northern Arizona public safety agencies. Expertise and equipment from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit, the Flagstaff Fire Department Technical Rescue Team, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Northern Air Rescue Unit were instrumental in accomplishing this operation successfully.