BRADENTON -- The elevator at the 12-story DeSoto Towers senior apartments has been broken since 3 a.m. Monday, leaving the older residents increasingly frustrated and concerned.
"People are getting up in arms. We have people who could have a heart attack," said one resident of the downtown complex at 1523 6th Ave. W., who asked not to be identified.
Another resident said she saw a man in his 80s sobbing on the second story, because he was unable to continue up the stairs to his apartment on the 10th floor.
Staff members at DeSoto Towers are trying to do whatever possible to ease any inconveniences for the residents.
"We've brought in everyone we know to repair the problem. I know it's frustrating to residents. It's the worst problem we have had here in five years," Manager Nancy Steele said.
The problem with the elevators started as Tropical Storm Debby moved into the area and knocked out power, Steele said. Elevator repair crews have been on site since then, but as of Thursday evening had not resolved the problem.
"If they don't get it fixed, they may be here all night," Steele said. "They are up in the control room now.
"My heart breaks for the residents. We are doing everything we can to make them comfortable, including bringing them their medicine and food," she added.
Paramedics have been brought in to help move residents from floor to floor when they are unable to negotiate the stairs, she said.
EMS crews made at least three calls this week to help carry someone up the stairway with the elevators out, according to Ron Koper, chief of Manatee County Emergency Medical Services.
They had to go to the ninth floor Tuesday to assist a resident with respiratory problems and carry them down before taking them to a hospital.
EMS crews had to do the same on two emergency runs Wednesday. One was to the fifth floor when a resident with chest pains had to be taken to a hospital. The other was a resident on the 10th floor who had fallen but didn't require hospitalization.
Even before the breakdown this week, Steele said, plans were being made to install new elevators.
DeSoto Towers was built in 1970, and the elevators were last renovated in the early 1990s.
"The crews expressed their concerns about the delay in reaching patients, so needless to say we've been talking with their management to impress upon them the importance of getting those elevators working quickly," Koper said. "There's a greater sense of urgency to get this corrected for us and for them."
On its website, DeSoto Towers is described as a "senior lifestyle community." Residents must be 55 or older to qualify, meet income qualifications and must be able to live independently.
Kenneth Langston, the Bradenton Fire Department fire marshal, was at DeSoto Towers Thursday afternoon to inspect the situation.
"It's tough for the residents," Langston said. "Having working elevators is part of the ADA (Americans Disabilities Act) requirement and I don't like to see people stuck in their homes.
"But they seem to be doing everything they can do get them going," he added. "I'm going to check again in the morning and do what we can to help get their elevators functioning."