Hubei suspends use of escalators by firm in mishap

Hubei suspends use of escalators by firm in mishap
PHOTO: YouTube screengrabs

The woman who fell into a pit at the top of an escalator in China's Hubei province was killed because she got caught in a tight gap between the moving steps and the protective wall that sets apart the motor room, the Chinese media reported.

The government of Hubei's Jingzhou city disclosed this at a press conference on the incident last night, which it described as a case related to "the safety standards of a product", the People's Daily reported.

Following that, Hubei's quality supervision bureau yesterday ordered a province-wide suspension on the use of escalators made by Seloon. The company had produced the one that killed 31-year-old mother Xiang Liujuan on Sunday in Jingzhou's Anliang shopping mall.

According to the official website of Seloon, which is based in eastern China's Suzhou city, it is one of the leading manufacturers of escalators in China. It also exports its products overseas.

According to the Beijing Youth Daily, a four-year-old boy was killed in 2011 after being trapped between the steps of a Seloon-made escalator.

Another incident in the same year saw a Seloon escalator jerk violently forward and backward in a mall, scaring the people on it.

In Sunday's incident, Ms Xiang was with her three-year-old son when a floor plate at the top of the escalator gave way, causing her to drop into the hole.

She pushed her son to safety, but disappeared into the hole nine seconds later.

Some Chinese netizens said she had apparently ignored a warning and used the escalator, but a cousin of hers refuted the charge in her blog, saying that Ms Xiang was told that the escalator was faulty only when she was halfway up by two sales assistants waiting at the top.

According to Chen Guanxin, head of Jingzhou's quality supervision bureau, staff in the mall realised a floor plate at the escalator had come loose five minutes before the accident, but it was not shut down immediately for repairs.

The Beijing Times reported yesterday that Ms Xiang's body was intact when it was retrieved from the escalator, four hours after she fell.

"There are significant problems with the quality and maintenance of the escalator," an unnamed executive of an escalator company told the Beijing Times.

"An escalator has many safety devices, such as emergency stop buttons, a power switch under the floor plate and a cover for the moving gears, yet none seemed to have played its role in this case," said the executive.

He also said the floor plate should have been held in place by four screws, yet it still came loose.

A floor plate should also lie snugly on a slot. Only if it is not properly positioned would it give way, he added.

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