Chinese Woman Crushed To Death By An Escalator

The scene can only be described as horrific: On an otherwise normal morning, a woman is riding up a shopping center escalator in central China with her son. When she reaches the top and begins to disembark, she steps onto a metal footplate covering the machinery. The plate collapses, dropping the woman into the gears. She shoves her child into the arms of two mall employees, and is crushed to death instantly.

Security-camera footage of the incident hit Chinese social media late Sunday, hours after it occurred, with local media identifying the woman as Xiang Liujuan, 30. In a rapidly urbanizing country still plagued by shoddy construction standards and poor building maintenance, the news spread like wildfire.

But as news of the Sunday morning incident in the city of Jingzhou, 130 miles west of Wuhan in Hubei province, spread, anger at the mall and safety inspectors mounted. “What brand was that escalator?” asked one commenter online. Another, describing the incident as heartbreaking, said the store must bear responsibility.

According to Xiang’s sister-in-law, Xiang apparently was unaware of any problem with the escalator until she and her son had already stepped onto the moving staircase, which was still in motion and not blocked off in any way.

People questioned why the escalator was allowed to keep running or was not cordoned off if it posed a danger. Two employees, seen in the closed-circuit video circulated online, were standing at the top of the escalator, apparently trying to talk with Xiang as she and her son rode up.

The Wuhan Evening News quoted an escalator expert as saying that the conveyors typically have safety mechanisms that should automatically stop the machinery if the metal plate is opened. It was unclear whether this escalator was equipped with such a feature.

The local safety inspection bureau told the Shanghai-based publication The Paper that there was no record of the escalator being under repair at the time of the accident. The state-run New China News Agency said local authorities were investigating.

Xiang’s sister-in-law, in a post on the social media platform Weibo, appealed for help from the media, saying that after Xiang was killed, the shopping center continued to function as normal, with customers on lower floors oblivious to the incident and other possible dangers.

China has seen repeated reports of malfunctioning elevators and escalators killing or injuring people. Last September, a video of a student crushed by an elevator in the southern city of Xiamen was widely circulated online. In January, a doctor died after he and a patient got into a physical quarrel and bumped into an elevator door, causing it to open. Both men fell into the shaft and died.