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Inverness College UHI students stuck in residences lift for 6.5 hours – to avoid repair bill!

By Louise Glen

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The student residences, where the trio were trapped in a lift.
The student residences, where the trio were trapped in a lift.

THREE teenagers were trapped in a lift for six-and-a-half hours after their landlord refused to allow firefighters to cut them free.

Inverness College UHI students Benjamin Adams, Cameron Macrae and Isabelle Gallacher – all aged either 16 or 17 – were told they would need to wait for a lift engineer, who was a three-hour drive away.

They were trapped in a lift within student accommodation on the Inverness Campus and claim landlord Cityheart Living told them it would be “too expensive” to fix the lift if emergency services had to cut into it.

It took the landlord three-and-a-half hours to contact the engineer, who was based near Aberdeen.

Student president Alan Simpson accused the firm of putting “profits above student safety” and the University of the Highlands and Islands has launched an investigation.

They were stuck from 11.25pm last Friday to 5.47am the next day. The teenagers were handed freezer bags through a gap so they could relieve themselves.

It is understood Cityheart management phoned emergency services at 12.25am – an hour after the students first raised the alarm.

In a joint statement, the students said: “We could have died with the time it took for them to get us out of the lift.

“The lift is very small and we weren’t able to stretch our legs. It was good there was only three people inside it. If there had been more, it would have made it even more uncomfortable than it already was. Had there been five or more in the lift, standing for six-and-a-half hours would have been unbearable.

“The fire brigade, not having any success with the options they had tried previously, asked permission from Cityheart to cut the lift open to get us out.

“We were then told that Cityheart had said they were going to try and source a lift technician to come out, as it would be too expensive to repair the lift if the fire brigade were to cut or damage it in any form.”

They added: “None of us will probably be using lifts in the near future unless we have to.”

A fire service spokeswoman said they were called to the scene at 12.25am by a concerned member of the public. She said: “We are regularly called to assist with helping people who have become stuck in lifts, as we are able to use our hydraulics to free the doors of the lift and remove people.”

However, in this case, she said: “We were asked to wait until a lift operator attended from another part of Scotland. We waited with the manager until contact had been made with the lift engineer.

“That eventually happened at 2.48am, when we left the scene. The lift operator was not on the scene when we left.”

Mr Simpson said: “I am really, really worried about Cityheart and the way in which they treat students.

“This is another example where Cityheart is clearly putting profits above the safety of our students. Six-and-a-half hours in a lift is completely and utterly unacceptable. I understand they were waiting for an engineer to come from near Aberdeen. The situation is absolute nonsense.

“I am going to go and meet with the Inverness principal to discuss this very serious issue.”

A university spokeswoman said: “The safety and wellbeing of our students is our number one concern.

“The university is now conducting a full investigation.”

The Courier contacted Cityheart Living for comment, but they failed to respond before we went to press.

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