Last week, an eighty-eight year old female was killed while riding an escalator at a train station in Lindenhurst, New York. Initial reports indicate a broken escalator handrail prevented the elderly woman from grasping the handrail. The woman's clothes then got stuck in the escalator while she was on the ground, causing the woman to slowly choke to death. Just minutes before the woman's apparent wrongful death, an elderly man had a similar incident on the same escalator but seemed to escape serious personal injury.
In the United States, there are approximately 35,000 escalators providing about 105 billion passenger trips each year. Most escalators are located in commercial and public buildings like malls, hospitals, airports, and train stations. Although escalators speed up passenger travel from one point to another, escalators can cause serious injury or death if they are defective or improperly maintained.
Escalators may be defective in a number of ways. For example, escalators may have missing teeth along the escalator track, loose parts, broken parts, or other defects. Poorly maintained escalators can stem from various maintenance mistakes or simple neglect. When an escalator is poorly maintained or defective, it can cause passengers to fall and/or become entrapped in the escalator.
In study once conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPS) from 1993 to 2003, there were 24 non-work related escalator deaths in the US or two deaths per year. Eight of these deaths occurred when a passenger's clothes became caught in the escalator at either the top or side of the escalator. Sixteen of the deaths were from passenger falls on the escalator, accounting for about seventy-five percent of escalator deaths in the US. The CPS study did not identify how many escalator incidents, not involving death, resulted in serious personal injuries. Unfortunately, children and the elderly are often at the greatest risk of injury from escalators.
New York Times, Death On Escalator M.T.A. Had Once Hoped To Replace, March 2012
Consumer Watch, Escalators, February 24, 2010.