Commentary

What Are Your Chances Of Dying In An Elevator?

Fourteen people were trapped in an elevator in the the world's tallest building this weekend. The incident left a dark shadow on what was supposed to have been the unveiling of the most perfect — and fastest — elevator system in the world. (I explore what was so perfect about these elevators in a piece on All Things Considered today.)

According to Otis, who designed the new elevator at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the passengers were brought to safety within 15 minutes. The immediate nature of the response apparently did not enhance the experience of the individuals trapped.

"It was a nightmare," one unnamed passengers told 7Days.

He also complained of having been charged too much.

Being stranded in a small, but posh box 1,410 feet in the air does seem exceptionally terrifying. Lest it ever happens to you, however, you should know — you aren't likely to die.

That whole plunging concept so popular in horror movies is a technological impossibility according to Richard Pulling, the director of high-rise operations for Otis.

An elevator plunge occurred only once. That was in 1945 when a plane flew into the side of the Empire State building, sending one its engines through the elevator shaft, severing every one of the cables.

Even so the passenger, Betty Lou Oliver, survived. (You can listen to witnesses' accounts here.)

That said, don't lean on any elevator doors. People do die falling through those.

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