During an outing to Sydney’s Westfield shopping center on Monday, a four-year-old girl got trapped by an escalator’s handrail and was nearly crushed to death.
The little girl, whose name has not been released, was riding the escalator at the mall with her parents and fell at exactly the wrong time. The result, as originally reported by local TV station 7 News, was that she got dragged down by the handrail and was crushed against the shopping center’s floor.
The video below is actually coverage of another incident in which an escalator handrail crushed a little boy in China (serious escalator-related mishaps are more common than you think), but it does a good job of illustrating how the crushing took place in both cases.
The little girl’s incident truly must have been a “terrifying ordeal,” 7 News points out. In the station’s featurette on the incident, they show video of the little girl after tripping and being pinned to the floor facedown by the handrail. As the girl shrieks, her frantic parents try to save her by using a screwdriver on the contraption. Apparently it did not work, though, because security guards soon join in on efforts to free the little girl with several other small tools.
Onlookers attempted to comfort the four year-old girl while she was pinned, but one nearby store owner in particular recounts that just witnessing the horrible scene surrounding the trapped little girl was traumatic.
“I will never forget the screams I heard.”
It is not yet clear exactly how long the girl was trapped, but medics soon arrived at the scene and brought her to a local children’s hospital with arm injuries, writes The Daily Mail. The little girl was given the okay to go home the same day.
The little girl and her parents should count themselves as lucky, because the injuries would have been much more severe and possibly fatal had the escalator not included a safety device. The device, Westfield Mall representatives say, was set to shut down the escalator whenever it encountered any major physical resistance.
On many escalators, such as the one that crushed the little Chinese boy discussed above, no such safety mechanism is in place. This means that the full force of the escalator’s machinery continuously bore down on the Chinese boy like a heavy weight being pressed down on his chest for an extended period of time. In the little girl’s case, the heavy weight let up almost immediately thanks to the mall’s safety preparedness.
Jason Chambers, representative of an Australian child accident prevention organization, commented on how very lucky the country’s population had been in terms of avoiding escalator-related injuries.
“We’ve been quite lucky that we haven’t really seen that many severe accidents in Australia recently, but there have been quite a number of severe injuries overseas, including some fatalities,” he noted.
The little Chinese boy mentioned above is just one example of what Chambers is referring to. The American Association for Justice says that in 2013, there were 12,260 escalator-related deaths or injuries in the U.S. alone. Each year, the report says, the number of incidents increases.
Parents are little by little beginning to realize the risks posed by escalators, too, reveals the 7 News video.
“It’s dangerous, so you have to pay extra attention to them,” said one mother.
“I get too worried if I go on it,” said another.
“I’ve seen a couple of people fall over,” said a third.
So the message is clear:don’t underestimate escalators. It is a lesson one little girl in Sydney learned the hard way.
As for the girl, it is safe to bet that next time, she’ll be taking the stairs.
[Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP Images]