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Storm-caused power outage traps girl in elevator

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A 10-year-old North Dakota girl spent several anxious minutes in a dark elevator Tuesday night after a thunderstorm caused a power outage in North Rapid.

Vonica Alberts, of Newtown, was trapped alone in the elevator at the County Inn and Suites at 2321 North Lacrosse St. when the lights went out, according to her mother, Vonnie Alberts.

A power line outage near the Rushmore Mall substation plunged a portion of the area into the dark at about 10 p.m., according to Mutch Usera of Black Hills Corp. The outage lasted about an hour, he said.

Vonica, her father and baby sister were sleeping in the family's room when Vonnie Alberts left to check on laundry in the hotel's laundry room.

"She woke up and realized I wasn't in the room, so she ventured out to look for me," Vonnie Alberts said.

The family has been in town since Saturday, so Vonica felt comfortable moving about the hotel, her mom said.

The elevator stopped between the first and second floors when the power went out. Emergency lights in the motel's hallways came on, but there wasn't a light in the elevator, Vonnie Alberts said.

"I couldn't see," Vonica said. "It was pitch black and hot. I almost fainted in that thing."

Once Vonica's plight was discovered several guests rallied to help, Vonnie Alberts said. She's very grateful to everyone who helped. The firefighters who rescued her daughter left so quickly she didn't have time to thank them.

One hotel guest stayed on the first floor to talk with Vonica through the elevator doors until help arrived.

"Another gentleman thought to hold a flashlight in a crack at the bottom of the floor," Vonnie Albert said. "He sat there until the fire department came so she wouldn't be scared."

The Good Samaritan gave Vonica his flashlight, which she kept on until she fell asleep after her rescue.

Representatives of the Country Inn and Suites would not comment on the incident.

A Rapid City Fire Department crew arrived at the motel at 10:02 p.m. and left at 10:14 p.m., according to their records.

Getting people out of elevators is something firefighters are accustomed to doing, according to battalion chief Rob Powell. Power outages and equipment malfunctions are usually the culprits.

"It happens. It's not unusual for it to happen," Powell said. "Our people are all trained on how to get people out of elevators safely and quickly."

Calling the fire department is faster than calling an elevator service, Powell said. Generally, fire units are only a few blocks away and can arrive in minutes.

Those emergency buttons in elevators that say "Fire" or have a fireman's helmet on them, are not for the public, Powell said. Firemen have a key to control elevators in case of fires.

"One thing people should be aware of, if they are ever stuck in an elevator -- call for the fire department," Powell said.

Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or


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