Transformer Explosion Knocks Out Power at Midtown Hilton, Traps People in Elevators

Guests walked down dozens of flights of stairs to evacuate

A blown transformer knocked out power at the Hilton New York Hotel on Sixth Avenue Wednesday afternoon, trapping people in elevators and causing smoky conditions, officials said.

Many guests in upper floors walked down dozens of flights of stairs to evacuate the building. Three people suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, officials said.

Firefighters rescued nine people from two stuck elevators -- one between floors 5 and 6 and the other near the 10th floor, according to Chief Jim Hodgens.

The transformer, in a sub-basement of the hotel, crackled and exploded with one large boom and then shorter bursts, according to witnesses.

The explosion "sounded like gunfire," said Mark Parrell, who was attending a conference at the hotel.

Guests staying on upper floors said they didn't hear the explosion, and only noticed their lights went dark.

"Everything just went out," said Erin Salstrom, a guest visiting from Minnesota. She said guests on floors 4 to 44 were told they didn't have to evacuate, but she and her husband decided to walk down the 26 flights anyway.

Power was not expected to be restored to the hotel, which was at full capacity with 3,000 guests, until Thursday or Friday, Hodgens said. The hotel, which is located at 53rd Street, was making arrangements for people to stay elsewhere.

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