Couple relives being trapped in elevator year after Sevier County wildfires

Local News
Joe and Reba Williams

Joe and Reba Williams are reliving a nightmare that’s now more like a miracle.

They haven’t stayed away from Westgate Resort in the Smoky Mountains, even though a year ago, they were trapped inside an elevator during the deadly firestorm.

“We’d been in the elevator a few minutes. It went down about a half a floor and the power went out,” said Reba Williams.

They’re back at the resort, staying once again, the week of November 28. This year was different. They attended Gatlinburg’s Day of Remembrance ceremony and met the first responders who saved their lives the year before.

“We said our goodbyes to each other because we’d been there for so long, and said, ‘See you in heaven,'” said Reba Williams.

She said an employee with the resort knocked on their door with a warning about mandatory evacuations. They were told to grab what they could, but to leave, heading into Gatlinburg, and they would be directed to safety.

“We knew there were fires, but not an emergency situation,” said Reba Williams.

When they got into the elevator it quickly stopped. She said they stayed calm, until they realized they were trapped. The emergency call button in the elevator wasn’t working, and so, Reba Williams says they called 911 every 30 to 45 minutes.

“Finally I just said, they’re not coming,” said Reba Williams.

Joe Williams says when the first responders arrived, his wife was unconscious. When they asked her to stand, her hands touched the hot metal rails within the elevator. She was taken to be treated for burns.

“She wasn’t breathing. Tthey were pumping oxygen into her lungs. I mean, I was really scared for her. I didn’t know how bad,” said Joe Williams.

A year later, they are back. Reba Williams says she still gets worried getting on an elevator; Joe Williams says it doesn’t bother him.

They’re staying in the last standing building at Westgate Resort and they don’t plan to stop coming back anytime soon. When they do, now they have new friends to visit – the heroes who saved them.

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