Bangkok mall boosts safety after near-fatal accident

THAILAND - A near-fatal accident involving a young girl and an escalator at Future Park in Rangsit has spurred changes at the shopping mall in the north of Bangkok. The space between all escalators and decks of floors has been sealed to prevent such an incident recurring, a senior employee said yesterday.

Nualphrae Wasunthaphi-chaikul, 12, is in coma, after sustaining severe head injuries. She is in an intensive care unit at Bangkok Hospital Rama IX, after initial treatment at Pathumvej Hospital in Pathum Thani.

The girl, who was going up on an escalator, leant over its glass wall to watch a show but glanced back before her long hair got stuck when the lift neared an upper floor. She tried to pull her head away but her hair was caught and this caused her neck and head to be squeezed. Her mother, who was following her, fainted after seeing what had happened.

The mall's marketing manager, Rattana Anannuphong, said it would be responsible for the girl's treatment costs, and they would seal the space on all escalators by Monday night.

Dr Adisak Phalitpholkarnphim, a child safety regulations expert, said high-standard escalators should deploy an automatic stop when sensors detected objects that obstruct their normal operation, and the speed of steps should be the same with rubber handrails.

"Escalators should not be installed next to or near decks of the upper floor, as this creates a dangerous triangular space.

"Another safety standard is that escalators should not be installed next to walls," said Adisak, director of the Child Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention Research Centre at Ramathibodi Hospital.

There were no laws against installing escalators near or next to the deck of an upper floor, or near or adjacent to walls. There were few cases of such accidents in Thailand, probably because there were no records, he said.

Adisak advised parents with young children to closely accompany them when visiting shopping malls.

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