Woman recovering in hospital after being left trapped in billionaire's New York lift all weekend
A woman has been rescued by firefighters after being trapped inside a billionaire's New York apartment elevator for an entire weekend.
Marites Fortaliza, a 53-year old housecleaner, was left abandoned and stuck inside the lift for a total of three days, without food or water, before the owners returned home. They contacted the authorities at 10 am on the morning of Monday, January 28.
The New York townhouse where Fortaliza was left trapped is worth an estimated $20 million and is located at 48 East, 65th Street on the Upper East Side. The house is owned by billionaire Warren Stephens (who was not occupying the property at the time of this incident), the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Stephens Inc, a privately held investment bank based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Fortaliza was released by the emergency services and taken to hospital for dehydration and her condition was reported to be good following her checkup.
The Stephens family was allegedly away for the weekend, leaving no-one at home while Fortaliza was cleaning. Although police are almost certain that there has been no foul play, it does appear that negligence is the true cause of the incident.
Mr Stephens' building was previously flagged for a violation by the New York Department of Buildings back in October 2017. The DoB has sent inspector Devon Simmons to investigate the defective lift. He knocked on the front door on Monday, but was not let inside. Simmons claims that he will need to perform some tests to determine why the elevator broke down.
He added that, until he was given access to the building, the homeowners will be flagged with a violation, which was issued later that day. It has not yet been determined whether the elevator has a phone or emergency button. According to Simmons, buildings without people continuously monitoring them are required to feature emergency buttons or phones in their elevators to prevent exactly this kind of mishap.
A spokesperson for Stephens later told the press that the cleaner in question was like family to them, stating: "The employee involved has been a valued member of the Stephens extended family for 18 years. The Stephens family is relieved and thankful that she is doing well in the hospital. The cause of this unfortunate incident is being investigated and appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that something like this never happens again."
Stephens bought the attractive Upper East Side townhouse way back in in 1999 for approximately $9 million. Forbes magazine ranked Stephens as number 302 in its 2018 list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, and went on to estimate that his net worth stood at $2.7 billion.