A 67-year-old woman was seriously injured after falling into an open cellar door while she was walking and checking her cellphone at the same time, police said.
The incident, which occurred Thursday in Plainfield, N.J., was captured on surveillance video by a local window company.
In the video, the woman can be seen walking on a sidewalk toward open basement-access doors. She holds a purse in her right hand and a cellphone in her left; just before she arrives at the hole, she glances toward her phone.
A moment later, she stumbles over one of the open doors and falls headfirst into the cellar.
Two alarmed bystanders cover their mouths in horror.
Plainfield police said in a statement that the woman tumbled about six feet down.
Firefighters extricated the woman from the hole, and she was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, police said. The basement-access doors had been open at the time because of repairs to gas lines in the area, police added.
A police spokeswoman told The Washington Post on Friday that no further details, including the woman’s name, would be released.
“She’s stable,” the spokeswoman said. “She’s pretty banged up.”
The woman’s son told CBS New York that he wanted people who watched the video to know his mother is legally blind and diabetic.
“When I first saw the video, my heart dropped,” he told the station. “It was painful to watch.”
While it’s unclear exactly what the woman was doing at the time of her fall, police noted that she appeared to be distracted by her phone — an increasingly problematic practice, according to safety officials.
Although the dangers of distracted driving have been widely publicized — numerous states have passed laws prohibiting texting while driving — the consequences of “distracted walking” have received less attention.
A Wall Street Journal report last year found that emergency-room visits related to pedestrians distracted by mobile devices had increased 124 percent between 2010 and 2014.
“We aren’t talking about bumps and bruises,” Deborah Hersman, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and current chief executive of the National Safety Council, told the newspaper. “These are people who are straining muscles, dislocating joints and breaking bones.”
The nonprofit National Safety Council has been warning against “distracted walking” for several years.
In a 2013 bulletin, the group noted that a Consumer Product Safety Commission study showed that two years earlier, “a total of 1152 people of all ages were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. for injuries sustained while walking and using a cell phone or other electronic device.”
Said the National Safety Council: “Do not walk, talk and text.”