NEW YORK – A deliveryman who vanished after taking Chinese food to a Bronx high-rise apartment building was found alive Tuesday after apparently spending more than three days trapped in an elevator that had become stuck between floors.
Ming Kuang Chen (search), 35, had been the subject of a widespread search after he failed to return to his restaurant Friday night with $200 in receipts, prompting speculation that he was the victim of armed bandits or some other urban horror.
But the disappearing deliveryman emerged Tuesday with a mean thirst and a tale of survival. He was pulled out at about 5 a.m. Tuesday by firefighters responding to an emergency call at the high-rise.
"Thanks for everyone caring about me," Chen said afterward in an interview with ETTV, a Taiwan-based news network. "I'm fine now."
Chen had no food or water throughout his ordeal. He was given water at the scene before being taken to Montefiore Medical Center (search), where he was treated for minor dehydration and ate an apple, cereal and a roll. "He was in very good condition," said hospital spokesman Steve Osborne.
Authorities were questioning why police officers and the building's private security force found no sign of Chen, who claimed he had repeatedly cried out and pushed an alarm button in the elevator. And authorities had conducted a door-to-door canvass of the apartment complex over the weekend in search of Chen.
"I tried to knock (down) the door and kept screaming for help, but no response," Chen said in the television interview. "During the time I was stuck in the elevator, I just kept sleeping because I don't know what else to do."
Chen was last seen about 8:30 p.m. Friday after making three deliveries at the same apartment complex. He later told police through a translator that he had entered an elevator on the 32nd floor of a 38-story building when it plunged down and became stuck between the third and fourth floors.
Chen, a native of China who speaks little English, apparently tried to tell rescuers how long he had been trapped by circling his watch dial with his finger numerous times, said Fire Department spokesman Charlie Markey.
An investigation determined that the security camera and alarm system in the elevator were working. But security officers told police they never heard nor saw Chen until Tuesday. Authorities showed up at the building Tuesday after firefighters got a call that an elevator was stuck.
Even maintenance workers who were called to check out the disabled elevator on Monday missed Chen, police said.
Those questions aside, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) marveled at Chen's good luck.
"If they were there and they searched and they didn't find him, thank God it turned out that he's OK," the mayor said. "I think we should all be thankful that the man's alive."