Man survives plunge down empty elevator shaft

Man survives plunge down empty elevator shaft

PORTLAND, Ore. - Sean Claughton had used the elevator a dozen times before he stepped in and plummeted 20 feet to the basement.

The incident happened Oct. 1 in an industrial building at Southeast Water Avenue and Madison Street.

"I didn't know when it was going to end," he said. "I guess my mind slowed it down, like slow motion."

When he hit the basement floor, his wrist shattered, one of his feet broke in two places and his shoulder blade was injured. Then there was the injury to a disc in his back, which has since been replaced by rods.

And he still needs more surgery.

"When I was down in the dark hole, I just started wiggling my toes a lot trying to make sure I could," he said. His muscles tensed in pain and each focused breath held him back from panic.

"I looked up to the top," he said. "I was just trying to picture myself climbing out of it, with my injuries. I was like 'how am I going to do this?' "

Someone in the building heard his calls for help, though, and called 9-1-1. Firefighters used ropes and pulleys to get Claughton out of the shaft and to the hospital.

Claughton said he had used the elevator a dozen times - lifting the elevator gate, setting up his photography equipment and leaving. But it was different this time.

"A second out of my life maybe made me not able to walk or ride my bike or skateboard," he said. "I do everything with my feet."

But Claughton does plan to use his feet again. He is ready for the months, perhaps years, it will take to recover.

"I feel like I'll try to get stronger than I was before I even fell," he said.

He's also grateful for the people in his life who are there for him.

"I appreciate every bit of everyone's love and it goes back to them a million times," he said.

Claughton has since been released from the hospital but he can't work and the medical bills are already piling up, so his friends and family have set up a donation page.