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5 people stranded 21 stories down at Grand Canyon Caverns rescued after more than 24 hours

The people were safe and had food as there is a small hotel with a restaurant at the bottom of the cavern.
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Five people who were stranded about 21 stories underground at Grand Canyon Caverns following an elevator malfunction have been rescued, Arizona officials announced. 

The group, which was stuck for 24 to 30 hours, was rescued Monday around 7:30 p.m. local time by a search and rescue team, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson John Paxton told NBC News.

The team used a tripod apparatus with a rope that fed down the elevator shaft to hoist the party up 210 feet to the surface in Peach Springs.

Paxton said there were no injuries. 

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

News: Grand Canyon Caverns
Visitors go down a trail during a guided tour at Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona in 2016.Mark Henle / The Arizona Republic / USA Today Network

Earlier Monday, attempts to fix the elevator by hooking it up to an external generator were unsuccessful, Paxton had said. The issue, which was being handled by elevator repair personnel, may have been mechanical, he said.

Despite being stranded, the group was safe and had food as it awaited rescue, because there is a small hotel with a restaurant at the bottom of the cavern.

The group was put up for the night by the hotelkeepers, officials said Monday. “I’m sure, they made sure they were as comfortable as possible," Paxton said Tuesday.

The suite lists for $1,000 a night for two.

Paxton said the incident was unlike any other in his 30 years with the sheriff’s office.

“I’ve never taken a call like this before,” he said.

“It’s just an unfortunate malfunction. I’m glad everybody is out safe and sound,” he 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.