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If hell is other people, is this heaven?

Saved Deliveryman Thanks Everyone, Says He's 'Fine'

UPDATED: 10:43 am EDT April 6, 2005

NEW YORK -- Ming Kuang Chen was written off after vanishing last Friday night while making a delivery for Happy Dragon restaurant at a high-rise apartment building in the Bronx.

Deliveryman Found In Elevator

As police conducted a massive search and days passed, speculation grew that the 35-year-old Chen was the victim of armed bandits or some other urban horror.

But more than three days later, the disappearing deliveryman emerged with a mean thirst and a tale of survival: he had been stuck by himself in an elevator the whole time, without food or water. 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 -- an illegal immigrant from the Fujian Province in southeastern China who speaks mostly Mandarin -- apparently tried to tell rescuers how long he had been trapped by circling his watch dial with his finger numerous times, said Charlie Markey, a Fire Department spokesman.

The deliveryman was given water at the scene before being taken to Montefiore Medical Center. He was treated for minor dehydration, but "that was all. ... He was in very good condition," said hospital spokesman Steve Osborne.

On Tuesday, authorities -- who conducted a door-to-door canvass of the apartment complex over the weekend -- 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.

"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 in the Bedford Park neighborhood. 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.

An investigation on Tuesday 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 they received his emergency call early Tuesday.

Even maintenance workers who were called to check out the disabled elevator on Monday missed Chen, police said.

Those questions aside, Mayor Michael Bloomberg 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."