I-Team: The Las Vegas Elevator Ride from Hell

LAS VEGAS -- A Clark County court marshal stuck in an elevator at the Regional Justice Center faced death when a cable snapped dropping him down multiple floors. The whole incident was caught on video.

An I-Team investigation of public elevators shows missing records and inaccuracies in maintenance logs.

Since the I-Team's investigation, Clark County officials say they've increased oversight of the company contracted to maintain public elevators. But one Regional Justice Center employee says it's too late. The terror he faced, trapped inside a falling elevator, changed his life.

Six thousand trips a day, 1.5 million trips a year. The lines for Clark County Regional Justice Center elevators can be a few dozen deep.

Aug. 19, 2010 seemed like a normal day until Marshal David Reyes became stuck in elevator number 9.

"Once I stepped inside, I expected to go just one floor, I started to travel a couple of feet, it felt like it. There was some type of malfunction and I could hear a few parts maybe snapping and just some screeching noises. Things, you just know, you don't commonly hear in an elevator. It immediately dropped," said Reyes.

For another 25 minutes, Reyes waited in the elevator. A surveillance video obtained by the I-Team shows Reyes talking to fellow employees on the intercom. He's told that help is on the way. At 11:20 a.m., the elevator begins shaking.

"I'm grabbing on to the handrails and I could feel it, the floor basically just falling down from underneath me. I'm horrified. I'm looking down because I could feel the weight of everything just kind of going down," Reyes said. He could hear cables and parts shaking above him and he feared broken equipment was about to crash through the ceiling of the elevator and crush him.

Reyes began hyperventilating and crying. Two minutes late, it happened again.

"I thought, for sure, I was going to die. I kept looking at the ground just waiting for something to happen. I was just trying to hold on. I knew something, either I was going to hit the bottom and it was just going to smash me from underneath, or something was going to crush me from above."

Reyes says when he was rescued minutes later on the ground floor, five stories from when his ordeal began, he was almost too petrified to leave the elevator.

Reyes' attorney, Dirk Ravenholt, began looking for elevator maintenance records. He says Clark County refused to give him the records, so he went to the Nevada Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"I asked OSHA for the records of the repair. If you can find out what happened to the elevator and how it was repaired, you can find out what caused the accident. To my chagrin, OSHA had never heard of the accident. They had never been informed of the accident," Ravenholt said.

OSHA did confirm to the I-Team that neither the county nor maintenance company, Otis Elevator, informed them of the elevator incident. They weren't informed until Reyes' attorney told them on May 13, 2011.

The elevator passed a OSHA inspection May 20, 2011, nearly a full year after Reyes' accident. Nevada OSHA took maintenance records from the county and Otis Elevator, records now obtained by the I-Team.

Logs for several months prior to Reyes' elevator accident details exactly what was fixed, what was inspected, and when it was done. The I-Team inspected the logs for August 2010, the month Reyes was trapped in the elevator, and found something completely different.

The official log OSHA is now using in its investigation, provided by Clark County, is blank. There are no details of any repairs, or maintenance for the entire month. Similar logs from other periods detail work performed and technician names. In fact, there is an inaccurate log entry. The elevator Reyes was trapped in, RJC 9, is listed as getting preventative maintenance on Aug. 23, only four days after the accident. It was impossible for elevator number 9 to be undergoing preventative maintenance, as recorded that day, when it took a full 28 days to repair it from the accident.

"If I was a district attorney or the attorney general, I would be looking into who's falsifying maintenance records for elevators in a courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada."

Emails between county employees Richard Spencer and Matt LaCroix during elevator number 9's 28-day repair reveal there is "strong evidence suggesting there have been several past repairs made and previous occurrences of comp-chain failures." The final maintenance log entry: "Elevator number 9 is up and running. Cross our fingers. RJC staff has been advised."

See the Maintenance Log Details

"Cross our fingers. Is that what you want to hear from the airline as your plane is taking off from the runway? This is the captain speaking. Cross your fingers, we might make Washington," Ravenholt said.

Clark County refused to sit down for an interview, citing Reyes' lawsuit against them. County documents claim Reyes' elevator car never fell, it was a controlled descent. However, those same documents speak of broken chains taking an unusually long time to repair due to the extent of damage in the elevator shaft.

Clark County issued a statement saying that in the last two years, they've only recorded two elevator injuries. They do not consider Reyes injured because he suffered no physical wounds. The I-Team asked why the county did not report this incident to Nevada OSHA. They responded "this incident caused us to review the requirements and have changed that. We now report, not just accidents, but repairs as well."

Clark County commissioners recently approved increased maintenance budgets. Commissioner Larry Brown, himself, stating that he'd once been stuck in a county elevator. Commissioners dumped another elevator maintenance company in 2008 after repair problems surfaced and awarded a $310,000 annual contract to Nevada Elevator Company, a division of Otis Elevator. They refused to comment to 8 News NOW on the matter.

The I-Team showed The Otis maintenance logs to commissioner Steve Sisolak who disagrees with the county's claim that Marshal Reyes was not injured in the elevator incident.

"The man was injured as much as psychologically. Did he maybe break an arm or a leg? Maybe he didn't. There's clearly a mental strain and stress that was put on him as a result of this," Sisolak said.

Reyes says when he when he was trapped in that elevator, feeling everything falling around him, he didn't think he'd ever see his wife or children again.

He's receiving psychological help from the mental trauma caused by the accident. Despite it being part of his job, Reyes says he can't willingly use an elevator anymore.

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