A quick trip to the biffy had a Gyro Park visitor locked in the ladies washroom Wednesday evening and prompted a call to 911 for rescue.
Evening skies were clear, so Ursula Abresch decided to stroll further down the park’s walkway but first she ducked into the women’s facilities just before 8 p.m.
The restroom lights were already off but the Trail photographer went about her business before giving the heavy steel door a push thinking she would soon be out and on her way.
When the metal entrance door wouldn’t budge, Abresch jiggled the handle and was startled by a loud alarm that rang for a short period, but the door remained locked.
Feeling slightly panicked and dressed only in a thin sweater, she sized up the draughty washroom and realized she could be in for a cold night.
“At first I was thinking I am going to spend the night in the washroom,” she said. “But it was still early and people were around so I kept pounding on the door and yelling for help.”
A passerby heard her pleas for assistance and through the door reassured Abresch he had a cellphone and would call 911 to get her out.
The fire department was first to the scene, she explained, but once the firemen ascertained she had no injuries, the crew chose not to break down the door.
Instead, Larry Abenante, Trail’s public works manager was called, and he summoned the arena’s night attendant to Gyro Park with keys to unlock the door.
By that time, the security company had arrived and freed Abresch from the facility.
“By the time I got outside a bunch of people had gathered,” she said. “And I got to shake everyone’s hand and thank the man who called for help.”
From start to finish the incident lasted under a half hour, but continued to weigh on Abresch’s mind Thursday afternoon.
“It was very early and there were still kids around,” she noted. “There was no warning or sound to let me know the doors would lock, so it would be very easy for this to happen to someone else.”
A sign is posted outside the washrooms stating the doors will lock at dusk, which this time of year can mean almost anything, added Abresch.
“It was a little scary so what if a child got stuck in there.”
Abenante confirmed he received a call just after 8 p.m. that a person was locked inside the Gyro Park washrooms, but said this was a first since the city invested in an automatic locking system.
“If anybody is in the washroom right at closing time they will get locked in,” he said.
However, there is a simple procedure to unlock the door should someone be caught in that predicament.
“All you need to do is walk back into the main part of the washroom away from the door,”explained Abenante. “The motion sensor picks you up and unlocks the door.”
Abresch wouldn’t have known this because the signs that outline how to get out of the locked doors are not currently posted on the bathroom’s walls, according to Abenante.
“The city apologizes that this happened,” he continued. “Temporary signs are going back up and we are making up good signs that will be bolted to the wall.”
The city installed automatic security locks on the Gyro Park washrooms a few years ago in response to growing incidents of vandalism.
“Sometimes our arena staff was too busy to get there and lock the door,” Abenante explained. “And a lot can happen if the doors stay open.”
When the motion sensors activate the intrusion alarm, the security company is alerted and is mandated to send a guard to the site for follow up.
Besides automatically locking the washrooms, the security system is in place to detect smoke.
“Last year someone threw a cigarette into the garbage can and the paper started a fire,” Abenante noted. “If the system wasn’t in place we would have lost the whole building.”