A 4-year-old boy in China died after his chest was crushed by an escalator handrail in a metro station in the latest of a string of similar gory deaths plaguing the country.
And while this latest escalator casualty is inspiring calls for improved safety and criticism of the China’s slapdash construction, many people are blaming the mother for the child’s senseless death.
According to multiple news sources — BBC News, Singapore Seen, the New York Times, and the New York Daily News — the accident occurred Thursday morning about 11 a.m. The unnamed mother had brought both her children — the boy, aged 4, and a daughter, 3 — to a metro station in the southwestern city of Chongqing.
She left them unsupervised in the ticketing hall; both children were playing near the escalator when the boy’s hand was stuck in the handrail. The Chongqing Rail Transport Authority said the child was leaning against the handrail when he fell, then rolled into the narrow space between the ground and the handrail.
The boy’s chest was wedged between the bottom of the handrail and the floor at the top of the escalator. Images of the disturbing scene were posted to social media.
4-year-old, left unattended, was killed after getting trapped under escalator handrail in Chongqing pic.twitter.com/OJre2yYnL5— CCTVNEWS (@cctvnews) October 9, 2015
Station workers responded immediately, shutting off the moving escalator within 20 seconds after the boy was caught. Officials and a gathering crowd rushed to help the trapped child, and he was removed from underneath the handrail and taken to the hospital.
Sadly, it was too late. Some news reports suggested that he died in the hospital, but local sources reported that he passed away in the ambulance on the way. A paramedic is reported as saying that by the time they reached a hospital, his heart had stopped.
The incident is under investigation, and the rail authority has come forward with grief and a warning to travelers.
“We are deeply regretful and heartbroken over this case. We also would like to remind all passengers to look after their young children and old folks when travelling, be more alert, and avoid similar accidents.”
But Chinese netizens, though acknowledging that escalators have become a death trap, were quick to blame the mother, whose lack of supervision led her child to play with the handrail in the first place.
“This time it is just the adults’ fault,” said one person on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter.
Still, people are rightly worried about the safety of escalators; the news media there has taken to calling them “man-eating.” Just last year, 37 people were killed in elevator accidents, and this year, a national safety regulator conducted an inspection and found 11,000 faulty elevators and escalators.
China is often accused of its shoddy public infrastructure — and now, glass bridges — which are often built quickly to keep up with the growth of its megacities.
The situation has become so dangerous that an infographic has circulated on the internet that instructs people how to ride an escalator safely and to survive if they fall (raise your arms, elbows pointed forward and hands protecting the chest and neck).
Incidents, like the boy’s death underneath the handrail Thursday, are often gory and disturbing. By far the worst was the horrific death of a 30-year-old woman who fell through a floor panel at a department store. She threw her son to safety, only to be “swallowed” by the escalator machinery.
Two days later, a toddler’s arm was mangled after getting stuck in the stairs. In August, a shopping mall cleaner’s leg got caught in the space where the stairs meet the floor plate; his leg had to be amputated. And in September, the arm of a 3-year-old girl was stuck in another escalator.