Chinese mother saves son seconds before falling to death inside escalator

Posted at 11:30 AM, Jul 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-27 11:30:30-04

Security camera footage has emerged of a mother saving her young son’s life seconds before losing her own on an escalator in China.

The 30-second video begins innocently enough: As the escalator in a shopping mall almost reaches the top, a woman in a white shirt and black skirt lifts up her young son to get ready to step off.

But as she does, a metal panel suddenly collapses under her feet and she falls into the gap.

Struggling with only her upper body above the structure, the mother is seen pushing her son forward. The boy is quickly pulled to safety by a mall employee standing near the top of the escalator.

Two other mall employees try to drag the trapped woman out — but within a few seconds she disappears through the hole, into the escalator shaft.

Despite a four-hour rescue operation at the upscale AZG Mall in central China, firefighters declared the woman dead when they finally cut the escalator open and found her body Sunday afternoon, state media reported.

Investigation underway

Police in Jingzhou, a city of more than five million residents in Hubei province, told CNN on Monday that the case was still under investigation.

State media have identified the victim as a 30-year-old stay-at-home mother. They also quoted sources saying that workers forgot to screw down the panel after maintaining the escalator between the sixth and seventh floors.

CNN’s repeated phone calls to the shopping mall and the local safety inspection authorities went unanswered Monday. A representative from the maintenance service provider declined to comment.

Mounting number of escalator accidents

In a separate incident on Sunday, a boy’s foot was stuck in an escalator at a shopping mall in Beijing, according to state media. He was rescued by firefighters within half an hour and appeared only slightly injured, witnesses told People’s Daily.

Last year, 13 people were injured when an escalator traveling upward abruptly reversed direction at a busy subway station in Shanghai. In 2011, a similar incident at a Beijing subway station killed a teenage boy and injured 30 others.

Victim’s family angry

Frustrated with the mall’s handling of the situation, the victim’s family members have gone online to call for a thorough and transparent investigation.

“An ordinary Sunday shopping trip ended up in such a sudden tragedy, almost ruining an entire family,” said user @kkcake, who identified herself as the victim’s sister-in-law and posted some of the earliest pictures from the scene on the popular micro-blogging site Weibo.

“The shopping mall is still open and the killer escalators are still running,” she added. “Shoppers have no idea about the tragedy upstairs and no one knows if such disasters will strike again.”