WUHAN, CHINA - A woman was killed in central China's Hubei province after a floor plate at the top of an escalator caved in, causing her to fall into the pit beneath the moving steps, the Chinese media reported.
Video footage of the shocking incident on Sunday morning, in Jingzhou city's Anliang shopping mall, was captured by a security camera.
It shows 30-year-old Xiang Liujun pushing her three-year-old son - whom she had been carrying - to safety.
Two female sales assistants at the top of the escalator, apparently waiting for the mother and son, tried to save Ms Xiang by pulling on her arms, but failed in their attempt.
Soon after that, Ms Xiang disappeared into the hole and, almost at the same time, the escalator came to a stop.
Firefighters took more than four hours to cut open the steps to retrieve her body, reported the Wuhan Evening Daily.
Ms Xiang's family said she was a housewife who had been on a weekend outing with her husband and son.
A source told the Wuhan Evening Daily that maintenance had just been carried out on the escalator, and workers had forgotten to screw the plate back into place.
Ke Qingjie, a relative of the victim, told the news website The Paper that Ms Xiang was warned that the escalator was faulty by the sales assistants only when she was halfway up.
"They were there to help. There was no sign at the bottom of the escalator stating that it was under repair," said Mr Ke.
The accident was one of the top topics on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo yesterday, with more than 6.6 million views, reported Agence France-Presse.
Most comments expressed fury at the mall management, with one netizen asking: "Why didn't its employees stop customers from using the escalator, or just turn it off?"
An executive at an escalator company told the Wuhan Evening Daily there is usually a 1m-deep safety space under the floor plates at both ends of an escalator.
"Whoever falls into it would at most be injured."
An escalator engineer was also perplexed as to why the escalator appeared to have no auto-stop mechanism, which would have been activated once a floor plate is opened.
Meanwhile, in southern Guangxi region's Wuzhou city yesterday, a one-year-old boy fell while riding a mall escalator with his grandmother. He got his left arm trapped between a floor plate and the steps.
The boy was quickly extricated, but has apparently lost the use of his left arm, said the Wuzhou Television Station.
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