Pretoria – What was meant to be a fun night out for a family from Roodeplaat, north-east of Pretoria, turned out to be a traumatic three-hour ordeal stuck in a lift at Menlyn Park Mall.
On Friday, Ntai Mokoena said he and his partner decided to go with their two children, 5 and 7 to play games at the nearby Menlyn Park Mall arcade and grab something to eat.
He said after they were done just before 8pm they made their way to the lifts. However, instead of going down, the lift went up and stopped working at level P6.
Mokoena said he as well as two other men who were also in the lift with the family tried to open the doors, and when that failed, they pressed the emergency button for help.
He said instead of someone responding to the alarm or communicating with them as they had hoped, there was no response.
“I ended up calling the number inside the lifts for mall management, but when I eventually got through the security told me there was no one there to assist us.
“He (the security official) told us they normally had someone from the company responsible for the lifts on standby. They would have to call the technician and he would arrive in 10 minutes.”
Thirty minutes later, Mokoena said, they were still stuck inside the lift, and when they called security, they told them they were still battling to get hold of the technician.
“We tried calling the company responsible a number of times, up until the security personnel decided to come down and they opened the lift doors slightly so we could get some fresh air in.”
After two hours, the group decided to contact police and Tshwane emergency services to come to the mall to assist them, but to no avail.
“When we called emergency services they told us they could come to assist us but they then asked us who would pay for the damage should they come. I was so shocked at how they were more worried about the damage to property than our lives.”
Eventually, he said, the technician arrived. It took a further 45 minutes before he managed to open the lift and get them out.
“It was a truly frustrating and stressful situation. I keep asking myself what would have become of us if I had left my phone in the car or if my battery had died. The children haven’t reacted but were visibly shaken in the lift even though they didn’t want to cry.
“What I don’t understand is why a mall as big as Menlyn Park Mall with the number of lifts they have don’t have a technician on standby. It just seems like they didn’t care about what happened.”
In 2017 also in December, a 16-year-old girl and a friend reportedly became stuck in a lift at the mall’s P7 level due to a technical failure.
At the time, the lift’s emergency call button was said to have been dysfunctional, leaving the girls trapped for nearly two hours.
They were allegedly heard screaming for help by shoppers and a technician was called to open the lift.
By yesterday, Nisha Kemraj from Menlyn had referred questions to Andrea van Schoor, but Van Schoor would only be available today.
Emergency services also failed to provide clarity on their failure to respond to the emergency.