I once got stuck in an elevator with a few other people, several of whom began to panic after not getting an immediate response. So I can only imagine the panic felt by some of the 140 people stuck for nearly two hours on the AirTrain elevated rail system at JFK International Airport before anyone at the airport did anything about it.
According to the NY Times, the problem began at 5:33 p.m. on Saturday, when a computer malfunction brought the system down.
Passengers say an announcement over the P.A. system said the train would be moving shortly, but both tension and temperatures began to boil over as no one responded to passengers’ calls.
“[E]ven after repeatedly pressing [the emergency intercom button], nobody would speak to us,” one passenger tells the Times. “It was now getting warm, and near an hour and a half of waiting.”
The Port Authority, which operates the airport, is pointing the finger at Bombardier, the unfortunately named company that operates the AirTrain, saying that Bombardier did not immediately notify anyone at the airport about the problem (though you’d think someone at JFK might notice that the trains had been stopped for more than an hour without having to be told).
“[A]s soon as we became aware that there were stranded passengers, we dispatched Port Authority Police to evacuate them from the trains,” an airport rep explains. He says the Port Authority wasn’t told until 105 minutes after the system had shut down.
A Bombardier rep tells the Times that his company actually told the airport about a problem around 30 minutes after it happened, but he wasn’t sure how long it was until Bombardier thought to mention that the passengers were completely stranded.
Police were dispatched to lead people off the trains and along the elevated tracks to safety and buses were used to ferry those passengers and others put out by the system shutdown.
The problems were eventually linked back to a loose wire in the AirTrain’s main computer and the trains were back up and running at 10:18 p.m.