The aftermath of a lift crashing four floors into the basement of a Co Kerry hotel causing life-changing injuries to the family inside it was like a "horror movie", a court has heard.

Five members of the Meehan family from Co Meath were inside the lift at the Killarney Plaza Hotel in July 2011 when it plummeted to the underground car park.

It was up to 15 minutes before staff at the hotel realised the lift had crashed to the basement and the doors were prised open.

It took another hour before ambulances arrived and one of the injured had to be cut out of the lift.

The details emerged during the trial of Ellickson Engineering, the limited company which installed the Daldoss Easy Life Lift at the hotel seven years previously.

The company, based in Kilmurry Waterford, is being tried for breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act for its work on the lift.

It is alleged the company failed to install the lift in a way that was safe and not a risk, that the installation was not up to standard and the workmanship was shoddy.

The trial itself was "a most unusual case" and was the first of its kind in Kerry, the jury was told.

The three Meehan brothers and two wives were in Kilarney for their cousin's wedding.

They had got into the lift, which could accommodate six people, when there was a "catastrophic failure".

"There was a noise, a bang. Something was clearly wrong," said Andrew Meehan.

The lift fell a few feet and came to a sudden stop, he said. There was a sound like a cable straining, a bang and then freefall, he said.

"We were hanging there. The lift was detached, rotating. The next thing there was a bang and we were gone," he said.

Mr Meehan suffered convoluted fractures to his left tibia, a broken right tibia and crushed right heel. 

His wife Patricia O'Leary's dislocated bone broke through the skin and was twisted at an unnatural angle.

Ms O'Leary told how the couple had two young children who suffered because of their parents' injuries.

Her sister-in-law Jenny was hyperventilating and in shock.

"I'm in chronic pain on a daily basis. My mobility is not great and this has had a huge effect on me and my family," Andrew Meehan said.

Glass in the lift shattered along with all the mirrors, the ceiling and panels came crashing down.

Only one light was working and they had no mobile coverage in the basement. The lift's phone was broken.

Kevin Meehan suffered broken vertebrae and fractured left ankle and right heel.

Hotel staff placed him on a laundry trolley to give him somewhere to lie down until the ambulance arrived.

Paul Meehan said the force of the impact when the lift hit the end of the shaft was massive.

When he heard the lift snap, followed by its weightlessness his life flashed in front of him, he added.

It was like "living in a horror movie", he said as he attempted to attend to everyone and also raise the alarm.

It was 15 minutes of shouting before anyone arrived. 

The company has not appeared in court and did not send a representative.

As a limited company, the matter would proceed "as though the company had entered a plea of not guilty," prosecutors said.

"The trial must proceed," Tom Rice for the Director of Public Prosecutions said, adding that the presumption of innocence still applied.

The matter had been investigated by the Health and Safety Authority, not the gardaí, and a large number of technical witnesses are expected to be called.

The trial, presided over by Judge Thomas E O'Donnell, continues.