A woman was killed over the weekend at a shopping mall China’s Hubei province as she was pulled into the inner workings of an escalator — but she shoved her son to safety as she disappeared into the machinery.
Surveillance footage posted online showed Xiang Liujuan, 30, riding the up-escalator with her 2-year-old son. As she neared the top, she scooped him up and stepped from the escalator onto a faulty floor panel that gave way under her weight. Xiang immediately pushed her toddler into the arms of a shopping assistant, who pulled him to safety. Another assistant attempted to pull Xiang up from the floor but she was swiftly swallowed by the escalator.
Warning: The security video here is extremely graphic.
Firefighters worked more than four hours to retrieve the body, which showed “no signs of life,” Agence France-Presse said, citing the Wuhan Evening News.
The Chinese newspaper cited unnamed individuals saying maintenance workers at the Anliang shopping mall in Jingzhou in Hubei had just finished working on the escalator and had neglected to screw the floor plate back into place.
By Monday, the news had been seen by millions on China’s social media site Sina Weibo. Many expressed anger over the shopping mall’s negligence.
“Why didn’t the staffers stop customers at the entrance to the machine or just turn it off?” one wrote, according to AFP. “The department store is definitely responsible.”
Others were inspired by the mother’s heroic actions.
“I was appalled when I saw her sink and at the same time felt the greatness of maternal love — the mother wasted no time pushing the child out when it happened,” one said.
Family members told the South China Morning Post that Xiang was shopping with her husband, who had not yet made his way up the escalator.
Such accidents are not unheard of in China, where “regulations and standards are often flouted and enforcement is lax, sometimes due to corruption,” according to AFP.
In 2011, a 13-year-old boy was killed in a Beijing subway station when an escalator went in reverse. More than 20 others were injured in the accident. The next year, a 9-year-old boy was killed when he got trapped in a department store escalator in the city. Last year, 12 people were injured in Shanghai when an escalator a subway station started moving backward.
The mall has not yet released a statement about this weekend’s accident.