Victoria Jha and Panav Jha spent the night of the wedding somewhere unexpected: trapped in an elevator. After their Western ceremony on Friday, February 17, 2023, and their Indian ceremony on Saturday, February 18, 2023, the couple and four members of their wedding were headed to their after-party on the 16th floor of the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina, early Sunday morning. That’s when things took a turn: They got trapped between the first and second floors. “We got up maybe five feet, and then boom, the doors got stuck,” the groom tells CNN. “Then, the doors started to open, so I could see the concrete wall right in front of me, and I could see the concrete wall behind me. I was like, ‘That’s not normal.’”
Luckily, the Charlotte Fire Department saved the day. Even though the firefighters said they receive similar calls on the daily, this rescue was more complicated. “We went through all of the normal troubleshooting that you do on an elevator call, and none of that was working, so that’s when we realized we were going to elevate it to what it ended up being, what was a rope rescue,” firefighter David Budd recounts.
Once they arrived onsite, the squad used ropes to hoist each person out of the top of the elevator one by one, so they could exit to the fourth floor. “We do like to lean on the elevator repair folks to help us with those situations, but as a last resort, we have the capability and the equipment to make it work,” captain for Rescue 11 Steven Pritchard says. “We put them in what’s called a hasty seat. It’s just a simple seat that hooks around them and we hook them up to our rope rigging system."
After rescuing the first person, the firefighters recall that the guest said, “Please get my sister out next. She’s the one in the wedding dress!” Two and a half hours later, all six of them were safe. Once the North Carolina-based firefighters rescued the group, they took a photo with the newly married couple and posted about the fiasco on Facebook. “Mr. and Mrs. Jha, we hope today is the start of a long and happy life together,” the department’s social media post says. Based on the photo, the bride wore a gold embroidered lehenga, and the groom coordinated in a matching kurta for the big day.
Although the newlyweds never made it to their after-party, they were able to view the silver lining in the situation. “It’s kind of like a blessing in disguise,” Victoria says. “I’d like to say I can’t imagine if this was me alone or him alone. At least we got to spend it together, so that’s what mattered.” Panav agrees that the moment makes for a great story. “It’s going to be one we remember forever,” he shares. “I’m going to tell my kids your mom was so beautiful, the fire department had to come.”