Cab No. 27, a high-speed elevator that services the 44th through 54th floors of the TD Bank Tower, was rocketing skyward Wednesday morning with eight passengers on board when it suddenly stopped.
It was shortly after 8:30 a.m. and the wood-panelled car and the eight people on board had become stuck between the 42nd and 43rd floors.
The passengers, mostly secretaries, managers and lawyers with McCarthy Tétrault LLP law firm, were unhurt. Crammed within a box about two-and-a-half metres cubed, bathed in pinkish light, most of the passengers turned to their cellphones and BlackBerrys, which they used to call for help and send e-mails to co-workers.
Perhaps they watched a small monitor installed in the tower elevator, which displays weather forecasts, stock quotes and advertisements.
Soon after the elevator became stuck, an elevator technician with nine years experience with Otis Elevator came to their aid.
It remains unclear what went wrong, but around 9 a.m., the technician, Andrew Hill, fell to his death.
Mr. Hill, 43, a devoted father to five daughters, was pronounced dead at the scene.
For more than five hours, as the removal of Mr. Hill's body unfolded beneath them, the passengers remained trapped in the dangling elevator.
As workers poured from the top floors and flooded to the tower's underground shopping pavilion, police and security guards draped black curtains around the base of the elevator embankment.
By 2 p.m., a small group of people had gathered near the elevators. Two women appeared to be very distressed and held each other while dabbing their eyes with tissues.
A group of Otis employees huddled together with them and exchanged hugs as they anxiously peered through a small crack between curtains.
"Yeah it was one of our guys doing the work," said one, who did not want his name used. "It's been a rough morning."
Moments later, firefighters carried a gurney behind the dark curtains, which formed a corridor leading to a service elevator.
The elevator had become stranded in a part of the shaft where there are no doors. About 2 p.m. it made a modest ascent, and the passengers were able to exit on one of the building's uppermost floors.
"They were met by people from our firm and met by people from Cadillac Fairview, the building manager. And then they were simply urged to go home," said Darryl A. Cruz, a partner with McCarthy Tétrault who saw the passengers after they emerged from the elevator.
Bruce Domoney, a bike courier with the Parss company, said one of his colleagues who was delivering a package was among those trapped on the elevator.
"He's really shook up," Mr. Domoney said.
Mr. Hill's family gathered at his home in Stouffille.
"He was totally dedicated to his family," said his mother-in-law, Pam Goulbourne. "He was a family man."
Mr. Hill had children young - his oldest, Alix, is 25 and his youngest, Ashlie, 11 - and moved to Stouffville with his wife, Lisa, 15 years ago. He loved visiting his cottage in Muskoka, boating and getting outside - "anything you can think of outdoors, he did," Ms. Goulbourne said.
"He was probably the best 43-year-old man I knew of walking the face of the Earth," she said. "He was just very kind and generous and compassionate and even-tempered and very, very good to his family."
The Newmarket native had worked in Toronto for Otis Canada for the past decade, and loved his job, Ms. Goulbourne said.
"He enjoyed his work, he enjoyed his co-workers. He had lots of respect for the people that he worked with."
A broken cable offered an early clue as to what went wrong, said Fire Department division chief Lorne Buckingham. But how and why Mr. Hill came to fall while trying to make repairs was unclear, Mr. Buckingham said.
Nor did officials immediately say how far the man fell.
While the elevator shaft runs the full height of the building, a second elevator runs alongside the first, and a report said the repairman fell 10 storeys - around 30 metres - before landing on top of it.
With police, fire officials and Ministry of Labour investigators on hand, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
"We responded to what we thought was just an entrapment," Mr. Buckingham said.
"Unfortunately we found out it was an entrapment plus a gentleman dying."
The Otis company issued a notice voicing its condolences, calling the incident "a terrible tragedy."
Otis Elevator mechanics have been servicing TD Centre elevators exclusively for five years, according to Heath Applebaum, manager of corporate communications and media relations at the Cadillac Fairview Corporation Ltd.
Unionized staff at the building have been on lock-out since June 14, but Mr. Applebaum said that unionized staff "would not be involved in any way with the elevators."
The union issues are "completely unrelated to this incident and elevators in any of our buildings," he said.
The 61 unionized Cadillac Fairview Corporation workers on lock-out are represented by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) Local 2003. They include building engineers, who support the buildings' air conditioning, heating, and fire systems, as well as building maintenance and skilled workers, including electricians, plumbers and carpenters who service mechanical equipment and fix electrical problems.
While he confirmed that these workers have "nothing whatsoever" to do with elevators, Zoran Grgar, a national representative of CEP, said that if they had been on the job, it is possible that these workers would have participated in rescue efforts.
"They wouldn't have attended to the entrapment itself, but they may have been involved in other ways, assisting," he said. This might have included "minor" roles, such as calling OTIS for help.
With files from Jill Colvin and Anna Mehler Paperny