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HomeBusinessVideo shows how a SkyTrain station escalator went out of control

Video shows how a SkyTrain station escalator went out of control

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Bob Mackin 

A two-minute and nine-second surveillance video shows how escalator number three at Granville SkyTrain Station went into “runaway condition” on Sept. 29, injuring three people.

Released by TransLink under the freedom of information law, the pixelated video from a camera at the top of the escalator shows what happened when the handrail stopped but the stairs kept speeding down with passengers aboard after 3 p.m. on the Friday afternoon. 

At one point, said the incident report, 16 people were on the moving walkway and they were dumped in a pile at the bottom. A 71-year-old woman suffered head, shoulder and knee injuries and was taken by ambulance to hospital. Two others were hurt, but exited from the scene on their own.

Image from surveillance video at Granville SkyTrain station (TransLink/FOI)

At 45 seconds after 15:00, according to the time stamp in the upper right corner of the video, a male approached, hesitated and stepped back instead of stepping forward, while the walkway accelerated. The speed moderated just before 15:01. 

Twelve seconds later, as a woman in a rush exited the upward middle escalator, another male approached to go down, carrying a bag. He stepped forward and descended, followed by 11 others. 

A 12th person observed the steps accelerate and hesitated at 15:01:31. Another moved forward seven seconds later and then retreated. By 15:01:50, the escalator stopped again. Then, at almost 15:02, a woman stepped forward and walked down the stopped escalator. A male behind her was not so confident. He touched the top step and turned around. 

Fourteen people walked down the stationary escalator beginning at 15:02:11 before the escalator restarted at 15:02:28.

Just three seconds later, a female in jeans and a green shirt stepped on, left foot first, and briefly lost balance. The escalator accelerated. The female grabbed for the right handrail at 15:02:30 but fell immediately. More than halfway down, someone had made their way off the escalator and sought refuge beside the wall.

People ascending the middle escalator looked behind as they disembarked. At 15:02:48, a male moved to the top of escalator number three, looked to the side, gazed down toward the person beside the wall and appeared to reach for the area where an emergency button is located to stop the escalator. 

The incident report said that the customer who pressed the emergency stop kept other passengers from getting on the escalator and used a nearby sandwich board to block access. 

At 3:05 p.m., a SkyTrain attendant arrived and barricaded the top and bottom of the escalator and began taking witness statements.

The incident timeline said the problem began at 2:54 p.m. when the escalator briefly sped up and caused passengers to run or jump off when they reached the bottom. Three more times before 3 p.m., the escalator sped up with medium passenger loading and slowed down when passengers exited. 

TransLink said that repair costs are covered by manufacturer Kone. The escalator was put back in service almost a month later on Oct. 27.

In July 2020, TransLink finished a $14.52 million project to replace the Granville Station escalators. The “big three” escalators, the longest in Metro Vancouver, are 35 metres long each, with 500 steps.

According to the TransLink website, the new escalators are supposed to provide smoother operation and braking for passenger safety, a variable speed option to save energy, LED step lighting and improved accessibility for maintenance so as to reduce downtime.

TransLink’s safety report does not separate onboard and off-board injuries. The customer injury rate on the Expo and Millennium lines have fluctuated above and below the rate of one customer injury claim per million boardings since 2018.

Granville Station had 4.8 million boardings in 2022 and was the fifth busiest station of the year. TransLink reported 83 million riders in 2022 on the two lines. In 2019, before the pandemic, it was 115 million.

On Sept. 27, just two days before the Granville Station escalator incident, BC Rapid Transit Co. president Sany Zein reported to the TransLink board meeting that during the second quarter of 2023, there were 27 incidents reported by customers. Over half were slips, trips and falls on “elevating devices.”

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