Sat in hell-evator for days
BY TAMER EL-GHOBASHY, NANCY DILLON and TRACY CONNOR
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Wednesday, April 6th, 2005
A Chinese food deliveryman consumed by thirst and hunger was freed from a busted Bronx elevator yesterday - after cops failed to find him for nearly 80 hours.
Ming Kuang Chen, 32, said he got trapped in the elevator Friday night and frantically tried to alert security, but no one came to help him until early yesterday.
"I kept pressing the alarm right away to security," Chen said through an interpreter after being treated for dehydration at Montefiore Medical Center.
Chen, who speaks little English, said he repeatedly said, "No good! No good!" into the security intercom.
It wasn't clear if Chen's cries for help were heard.
"She didn't understand," he reasoned. "Every time I pressed, sometimes people picked up, sometimes no."
For nearly four days, Chen said he felt his hope drain away as hunger racked his body.
He cracked open the doors to urinate twice. He screamed for help and thought about his wife and 10-year-old son in China.
"I was thinking I'd never see them again," he said.
His ordeal ended when security workers at Tracey Towers finally responded to his cries and called firefighters, who opened the elevator at 6:05 a.m.
"He's lucky he was found," said Dr. Babak Toosi of Montefiore.
Chen, who works at the Happy Dragon restaurant on Jerome Ave., went to the Bronx high-rise at 8:30 p.m. Friday. After dropping off $15 worth of shrimp curry and fried rice to an off-duty cop on the 35th floor, Chen said he got back on the elevator.
On the way down, the express elevator jammed between the third and fourth floors of the W. Mosholu Parkway tower.
Cops soon descended on the complex, fearing he'd been robbed or abducted by smugglers he had paid $60,000 to sneak him into the country.
Using bloodhounds, the cops searched almost all of the 871 apartments, peered into the elevator shafts and looked at video of the elevators. They even inspected tenants' luggage to see if a body was inside.
But no one physically looked in the No.2 elevator.
"We had reason to believe the checking of the monitors by police and security and by the elevator repairman were sufficient," NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said.
Cops were probing why Chen wasn't seen on the monitors. But building managers said the cameras fail to show part of the car. Chen said he tried to sit in front of the camera, but no one saw him.
No one reported that the elevator wasn't running all weekend. "They're broken so often, no one thinks anything of it," said tenant Eugene Banks, 64.
On Monday, a mechanic noticed the tape that connects the car to the elevator controls was broken, so he cut the power. But he didn't inspect the car "because he thought cops had already done a thorough search," building spokesman Don Miller said.
Early the next morning, security workers heard the elevator alarm and summoned firefighters.
"He was a little unsteady on his feet," FDNY Lt. Peter Chadwick said. "Someone in the lobby gave him a bottle of water and it was gone in two seconds."
At the hospital, he was given fluids and Rice Krispies and was in good spirits when he left - if a bit sore.
"I wanted to find that security guard and hit him," he said.
Tenants said they were stunned cops couldn't find Chen.
"They looked under the bed, in all the closets," said Richard Hoyen, 55. "How could he be in an elevator all this time?"
With Tony Sclafani