A mother who was crushed by an escalator which collapsed at a Chinese shopping mall on Sunday could have been saved if staff were trained properly, according to a CCTV report.

The victim, Xiang Liujuan, 31, was seen pushing her son out of danger before she herself fell into a pit created by the sudden collapse of a metal panel on top of the escalator, according to surveillance footage posted online. Her toddler, who is under three years old, was pulled away by three female shop assistants standing nearby at the Anliang Department Store in Jingzhou, Hubei.

Photo: Weibo

The tragedy could have been prevented if the trio pushed a button to stop the escalator, which they knew was malfunctioning. Instead, they verbally warned Xiang, according to an investigation by state broadcaster CCTV as well as the victim’s sister-in-law.

Photo: 扬子晚报

Ma Peizhong, director of the Chinese National Elevator Inspection and Testing Centre, told CCTV on Monday night that staff members at the mall “probably did not receive training” on how to manage escalators.

The CCTV investigation revealed the shopping mall management office was notified shortly before the accident that a metal panel, which connected the escalator with the concrete floor, had become loose. Maintenance workers who checked the escalator a few days ago may have forgotten to put the panel back in place properly, CCTV said.

The three staff members standing at the top of the escalator warned Xiang about the loose panel but she, and her son, had already boarded the machine, according to the Xiang’s sister-in-law, who was first to break the story on social media.

Video: Viewer discretion advised.

There were no warning signs and Xiang could not have turned back after she received the verbal warning, the sister-in-law whose family name is Ke said on Weibo.

Xiang’s body, which became entangled in the treads, was recovered about four hours later, local firefighters told Wuhan Evening News.

Footage aired on CCTV of the accident scene showed there were two emergency buttons, one on top and one on the bottom of the escalator. But neither button was pushed.

Photo: Wikicommons.

The accident put escalator safety back into the spotlight following several escalator accidents across the country in the past few years.

In March this year, a four-year-old had his five toes cut off after his foot got stuck in an escalator in Guangzhou. In 2011, a 13-year-old boy died and dozens of others were injured after an escalator at a metro station in Beijing suddenly went into reverse. A similar incident in the Shenzhen metro system injured 25 in 2010.

At a press conference on Monday night, authorities promised a thorough investigation into the shopping mall accident.

Update: New footage shows moment staff almost fall victim to faulty escalator minutes before mother is killed


Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.