Residents trapped in South Village elevators


Denis Akbari

Civil engineering major Alejandra Martinez-Juarez coming out of a Tower 2 elevator in South Village.

Many residents keep getting stuck in elevators in the South Village dorms, according to students interviewed. While some admit it is their fault for jumping inside the elevators, others are concerned about the malfunction of these new elevators.

On Monday, Sept. 19, at 11:03 p.m. resident DereJe Assefa, a criminal justice major, got stuck in an elevator in Tower 1 in South Village, along with resident Esteban Gomez, a business administration major.

“We were in the elevator and we were going up to the third floor,” Gomez said. “We were on the second floor level and the elevator went up and down and then stopped.”

Gomez and Assefa pressed the alarm button and called the Resident Assistant (RA) on duty to ask for help. The RA on duty showed up and, shortly after, the Residence Life Coordinator (RLC) on duty arrived on the scene.

The RA and RLC made sure the two residents in the elevator were OK by communicating through the elevator’s closed doors and asking how many people were inside. Then, they contacted the fire department for help.

The fire department arrived at around 11:40 p.m. The elevator’s doors were opened and the residents were let out.

“It got really hot in the elevator and, after a little bit, the lights turned off and it was pretty dark,” Gomez said. “I was stressed and frustrated that the fire department didn’t get there sooner.”

The incident was caused by individuals jumping up and down in the elevator, which triggered the elevator’s earthquake sensor, according to the university. If a resident experiences an issue in the elevator, they should use the elevator call button.

This was the third time that Gomez claimed to be stuck in a South Village elevator. He said he was in this situation twice during the 2021-2022 academic year.

Assefa also claimed that the elevator broke down often over the summer and at the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester.

“I am a calm person and I have been in worse situations,” Assefa said. “People’s past experiences and traumas are different so this can really affect someone depending on how you handle stress and anxiety.”

“It’s a pretty bad situation to be in if you cannot be in closed spaces,” Gomez said. “Last academic year when I got stuck, everybody was freaking out.”

“Housing and Residence Life has been working with the elevator vendor to evaluate any issues and to ensure resident safety,” the university said. “This week, the vendor was on site running tests to help ensure smooth operations moving forward.”

Marco Barriga, a computer science major, used to be a South Village resident and experienced getting stuck in a Tower 2 elevator in South Village during Fall 2021.

“There are cameras installed in each elevator so housing can check if residents caused the elevator to stop or not,” Barriga said. “We weren’t doing anything wrong and it felt uncomfortable because they made it seem like it was our fault.”

“The elevators in South Village are equipped with an earthquake control operation system set to state regulations,” the university said. “When the control panels are kicked, or the doors are forced open, this can cause damage requiring additional repairs.”

Civil engineering major and RA Alejandra Martinez-Juarez believes that people also need to take into consideration that lately there has been a heat wave that might have had an impact on the elevators.

“It’s a combination of people’s behaviors and the extreme temperatures we have been experiencing the past few weeks,” she said. “There have been instances this semester in which residents got stuck in the elevator because of their own actions and they admitted to that.”

Martinez-Juarez thinks that there are precautions that students can take to remain safe in these situations and be prepared.

“It’s not helpful to get angry in these circumstances,” she said. “Try to figure out ways to stay calm because being agitated can make the whole situation worse.”

It is also good to always have resources available with you in case there is a malfunction with the elevator such as a water bottle and your phone.

If anyone is trapped in the elevator, they should activate the elevator emergency phone. The Department of Public Safety offers more information on procedures.

Disclosure: The writer is a resident and RA in Cal State LA housing.