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Woman rescued after 3 days in New York City elevator

NEW YORK (AP) — A woman stuck for three days and nights in the private elevator of a Manhattan townhouse owned by a billionaire investment banker was rescued, police said.

The 53-year-old woman, who worked for the family of the banker as a housekeeping employee, was dehydrated but in stable condition at Weill Cornell Medical Center, they said.

Authorities responded to a 911 call at about 10 a.m. Monday from the home on East 65th Street, near Central Park. Firefighters freed the woman after forcing entry into the elevator that had stalled between the second and third floors of the five-story property.

The woman, Marites Fortaliza, of Queens, told authorities she’d been trapped since Friday while the owners were away for the weekend.

The 911 call came from inside the home but authorities did not say who made it.

The stately 1920 townhouse with a garden was purchased for $8 million in 1999 by Warren A. Stephens and his wife, Harriet Stephens.

Later Monday, the family issued a statement calling Fortaliza “a valued member of the Stephens extended family for 18 years.”

They said they were “relieved and thankful that she is doing well in the hospital,” and added that “appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

Warren Stephens, 61, is the chairman, president and CEO of Stephens Inc., an investment bank based in Little Rock, Arkansas. He’s estimated to be worth $2.6 billion on Forbes’ list of the world’s top billionaires. The firm, started by Stephens’ uncle, underwrote Wal-Mart’s public offering in 1970, and backed the bonds for the Louisiana Superdome. The Stephens family occasionally kept company with Bill and Hillary Clinton in Little Rock.

The cause of the elevator mishap is under investigation. No violations were found during the last inspection in July, according to city Department of Buildings records. Authorities did not know whether the elevator had an emergency button, or whether the woman had a cellphone.

Police do not suspect any foul play, but reported incidents of being stuck in an elevator for so many days are rare in New York City.

In 2005, a Chinese restaurant worker was trapped in a Bronx elevator for about 80 hours. And in 1999, a man spent 40 hours in a Manhattan office building elevator before he was seen on a security camera.


Associated Press writer Mike Sisak contributed to this report.