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Woman stuck in the loo

Karen Chalmers can see the funny side of being locked in a public toilet at Memorial Square in Carterton on Tuesday. PHOTO/JOHN LAZO-RON

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It wasn’t quite a moment where Karen Chalmers’ life ‘flushed’ before her eyes. However, the Carterton woman said the experience of being rescued from a locked public electronic toilet was “absolutely nerve-racking”.

Chalmers was taking an early walk at about 6.30am on Tuesday when nature called, and she stopped to use one of the public toilets at Memorial Square in Carterton’s CBD.

Little did she know, the electronic toilets were not in 24-hour operation, but only from 7am to 6pm.

However, after routine maintenance on Tuesday morning, the toilets did not close properly, leaving the door unlocked before the scheduled 7am open time.

Once Chalmers closed the door, it locked, keeping her sealed inside.

“I was taking a walk and needed to go to the toilet. As I went in, I saw that it said open at 7am, but the doors were open, so I thought it must have opened early. So, I went in and did my thing and then tried to get out, then all of a sudden – nothing.

“[I] couldn’t get out.”

She said she “stood there for a while” before trying to call for help. She called her husband, as well as the owner of the next-door shop, who she knew, and a friend. But none of them answered their phones.

“I think they were all asleep,” she said.

She then called the police [105], who passed on the matter to the Carterton Fire Brigade.

Hearing sirens getting louder and nearer got Chalmers concerned if they were coming to rescue her.

“The police said to me they had dispatched someone, so I thought someone from the police would just drive around to help,” she said.

“Then the next little while, I heard all the sirens going off, and I thought, I hope that’s not about me. Then it got closer and thought, okay, maybe it is me.”

The Carterton Fire Brigade attempted to get the door open but could not, and therefore called the Carterton District Council [CDC] to assist.

The CDC responded within five minutes and isolated the power that disconnected the magnetic charge to open the doors.

Carterton Fire Brigade Senior Station Officer Wayne Robinson said Chalmers was trapped inside for about 15-20 minutes before she got out.

Chalmers said she got a little claustrophobic inside but wasn’t hitting the panic button. In fact, she wasn’t hitting any buttons.

Inside the Memorial Square toilets, there is a release button for the locks. Chalmers initially thought it was a light button and didn’t want it to get pitch black inside.

“Well, it would have been easier to have pressed the button, but I didn’t know it at the time. I thought it was the light, and I wasn’t keen on it being dark in there.”

CDC has said they will improve their signage in the toilets to make people more aware of operating it themselves.

Chalmers thanked the Carterton Fire Brigade and CDC on a Facebook post which has since drawn several comments, including one from the brigade themselves: “Karen Chalmers, you’re most welcome. If you’re in the poo [or even stuck in the loo], we’ll always be there to help you”.

Asked if she could rate her locked toilet experience between one or two out of 10, Chalmers said, “definitely a number two”.

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