The six people had gotten into the elevator on the 95th floor of the 875 North Michigan Avenue building, formerly known as the John Hancock Center, early on Friday when they heard a loud noise as the car started descending.
Montemayor, who was visiting from Mexico City on a business trip with his wife Maña, said the couple held onto each other and began praying.
Maña told the Chicago Tribune she noticed dust particles seeping into the elevator.
“I knew something wasn’t ok,” she said.
One of several cables holding the elevator had broken and the car fell rapidly, landing somewhere near the 11th floor.
No one was injured, but those inside had to wait hours for firefighters to break through a wall more than 10 stories above ground.
“It was a precarious situation where we had the cable break on top of the elevator and we couldn’t do an elevator-to-elevator rescue we had to breach a wall,” Chicago Battalion Fire Chief Patrick Maloney told WBBM.
A city official told the Tribune the elevator was last inspected in July, and that a “hoist” rope connected to the car failed shortly after midnight.
“That rope is one of several that are connected to the elevator, and, even with this one failing, there’s a redundancy in place.
“Specifics of how it failed, and what type of failure, is still under investigation,” City Buildings Department spokesman Gregg Cunningham told the paper.
The elevator and two others will be closed until repairs are made and officials figure out what happened.
Visitors to the famed Chicago tower and its observatory area are using freight elevators in the meantime to reach upper floors.