School elevator that injured three girls should have been fixed, officials say

As three girls who were trapped this week under an elevator at Classen School of Advanced Studies spoke about their ordeal, the district's superintendent said a door to the elevator that should have been locked was broken and should have been fixed, preventing the problem.
BY BRYAN DEAN and SILAS ALLEN Published: November 18, 2011

A moment of curiosity led three Oklahoma City girls through a normally locked school door into an elevator shaft where they were nearly crushed, the girls said Thursday.

Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer said the door to the older, lift-style elevator at Classen School of Advanced Studies shouldn't have been open or unlocked Tuesday when the girls were trapped around 11 a.m. The door was apparently slightly ajar and wasn't closing properly, Springer said.

A work order that would have fixed the problem was on file, but hadn't been completed. Springer said a third-party contractor will be looking at the elevator as well as the district's work order process to determine what went wrong.

District officials are also trying to find out why the elevator missed its required annual inspections in 2010 and 2011, a situation Springer called "unacceptable."

School officials don't blame the girls, who opened the door after a friend told them there was something cool to see inside.

“If they're guilty of anything, they may be guilty of curiosity,” he said. “It's not their fault.”

The three girls spoke about their ordeal Thursday just as the last of them was released from OU Medical Center.

Liz Smith, a sixth-grader, and seventh-graders Ambri Tygard and Savanna Gable, said they've been friends since the beginning of the school year and had no idea that walking into the elevator shaft would put their lives in danger.

“We walked in and the door closed behind us, and the elevator started coming down,” Liz said.

Springer said a fourth girl closed the door just before the elevator descended, which automatically locks the door.

The girls started screaming for help. As the elevator kept coming down, they tried to push against it hoping it would stop.

“Right when it was coming down, and we tried to push up and it didn't stop, I knew I needed to call 911,” Savanna said.

City officials released a recording of Savanna's 911 call Wednesday. She can be heard trying to tell the dispatcher where they are as Ambri screams for help in the background.

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At first, when the elevator was coming down, I thought I was really going to die. After it smashed me, I realized we were going to be OK, but I was in a lot of pain.”

Ambri Tygard

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