The department store where a woman died in an escalator incident is responsible for the fatal accident, a work safety official in Jingzhou, Hubei province said today at a press conference, one day after the accident, Wuhan Evening News reported.
A special investigation team was set up following the accident.
"Employees found a footplate at the top of the escalator loose but failed to take measures to stop the escalator for checks and repairs, five minutes before the accident occurred," said Chen Guanxin, director of Jingzhou city Administration of Work Safety.
"The footplate turned over when the victim stepped on the edge of it and fell into the gap between a guard plate underneath and the operating escalator," Chen said.
A surveillance video, captured by a store camera and spread widely online, shows the woman holding her son as she prepares to get off the escalator when a footplate collapses under her feet.
Stuck in the hole and with only her upper body above the structure, she pushed her son forward, where he was caught by one of three shopping assistants standing near the top of th escalator.
The woman fell beneath the floor a few seconds later after another shopping assistant tried to grab her arm and failed.
It took rescuers nearly four hours to recover the woman's body, the newspaper said.
The victim's husband, who was in the area when the tragedy happened, told Wuhan Evening News that there was no notice board warning at the foot of the escalator, and it wasn't until the victim and her son reached the top that a shopping assistant reminded them of danger.
"But it was too late. My wife fell even before the assistant spoke out her last word", he said.
Why the footplate was loose is under investigation, a local work safety official named Chen said at the press conference.
The tragedy triggered outrage online and some tried to analyse the cause of the accident.
A microblogger named Diaolingjunbuzhi blamed the department store by saying that if employees had shut down the escalator or put up a notice board in the first place, the tragedy would not have happened.
Another Web user, named Lingshouyetegong, pointed out the imperfect design of the escalator by saying that there should be a mechanism to prevent the footplate from turning over.
Others called for related departments to raise safety awareness. Only the loss of life can raise people's attention to safety issues, said microblog user Niuniuer sunzen.
Another microblogger said he thinks maintenance on some escalators might not be up to par.
"Some escalator users (in this case, the department store) always ask small maintenance companies rather than the escalator factory to check safety in order to lower cost," he said," But some maintenance companies do not fulfil their responsibility. "