Woman hurt in MRT escalator accident

Escalators started working before shutters opened at airport station

Teacher Ian Stuart suggests it should be made impossible for the escalators to be activated before the shutter door opens.
Teacher Ian Stuart suggests it should be made impossible for the escalators to be activated before the shutter door opens.ST PHOTO: ZHAKI ABDULLAH

A woman and her two children were injured when they fell on a moving escalator at Changi Airport MRT station on Jan 27, after they and other commuters were caught between the escalator and the unopened shutter door to the station.

An eyewitness told The Straits Times that the escalator began operating at about 5.30am, leading some to ride it down as they thought the station had opened for service. At the foot of the escalator, however, they found the shutters were still closed, leading to a crowd being formed there.

While train service at the station typically begins at about 5.30am from Mondays to Saturdays, it starts only at about 6am on Sundays - when the incident occurred.

"It was too crowded to be safe," said science teacher Ian Stuart, 69, who was there at the time.

This led to some people walking up the downward-moving escalator, added the Australian national.

In the confusion, the woman, believed to be in her 30s and accompanied by two young children, fell on the escalator. There was blood everywhere, said Mr Stuart.

"I gave first aid by pressing a scarf that someone had passed me onto her head wound to stop the bleeding and took her to the passenger service centre, so she could sit down as she was in shock," he added.


In an e-mail to Mr Stuart seen by ST, an SMRT customer relations officer apologised and said the staff on duty had failed to comply with standard operating procedures before starting the escalators.

SMRT's vice-president for corporate communications Margaret Teo told ST that station staff immediately rolled up the shutter door and gave first aid to the injured commuters, who were taken to the hospital. They were discharged on the same day.

SMRT has continued to reach out to them to provide the necessary assistance, she added, saying: "This should not have happened and we are sorry for the incident.

"As part of station operating procedures, shutter doors have to be opened before an escalator is switched on for service," Ms Teo said. "On that morning, one of our station staff did not comply with this procedure. The station staff, who has been on the job for about a month, has since been counselled and disciplinary action will be taken against him."

SMRT has conducted safety briefings to all station teams on strict compliance to procedures, she said.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force had confirmed it was alerted to an incident and an adult and two children were taken to the National University Hospital.

More can be done to prevent a recurrence of the incident, said Mr Stuart.

He suggested, for example, that it should be made impossible for the escalators to be activated before the shutter door is opened.

Checks by ST last week found the shutter doors at the entrances to the station, from both Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, to each be about a metre away from the bottom of the escalator, with little room for commuters to manoeuvre if they find themselves in a similar situation.

Lawyer Chia Boon Teck said as SMRT is in charge of the premises, it is therefore responsible for safety lapses at the station.

Said the co-managing partner of Chia Wong LLP: "As SMRT is vicariously liable for the negligence of its employees, injured individuals resulting from the incident are entitled to look to SMRT for compensation for their injuries suffered, including medical expenses incurred, general damages for pain and suffering, and any other reasonable consequential losses."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2019, with the headline 'Woman hurt in MRT escalator accident'. Subscribe