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5 people stranded 21 stories down at Grand Canyon Caverns as elevator malfunctions

The visitors were unable to use a steep stairway system to get out, a Coconino County official said.

Five people have been stranded about 21 stories underground at Grand Canyon Caverns since the attraction's elevator malfunctioned Sunday evening, authorities said Monday night.

The visitors weren't confined in an elevator car; rather, they have the run of the caverns and an adjacent hotel suite while they await a suitable ride to the surface in Peach Springs, Arizona, said Coconino Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jon Paxton.

The malfunction was discovered about sundown Sunday, and the group was unable to use a stairway system described to be similar to an old, external fire escape, Paxton said.

The caverns are equipped with a six-person hotel suite and food service, and the group was put up for the night by the hotelkeepers, he said. The suite lists for $1,000 a night for two.

On Monday, attempts to fix the elevator by hooking it up to an external generator were unsuccessful, Paxton said. The issue, which is being handled by elevator repair personnel, may be mechanical, he said.

It wasn't clear how long it would take to repair the elevator, the spokesperson said. The solution could be a lift of the type used by fire department rescue crews.

The sheriff's office has one, and it was sent to the scene Monday.

Workers who have helped the guests below ground used the stairs, Paxton said.

The natural limestone caverns, said to be the largest dry caverns in the U.S., occupy a desert region southwest of Grand Canyon National Park about 110 miles from the California border.

The caverns are said to have been created by natural forces 65 million years ago. Facilities at the site, part of historic Route 66, are privately operated.