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“Uh-oh, and then a whirr”… Bundang line escalator again, the ‘dreaded reverse’

According to the Gyeonggi-do Fire and Disaster Management Center, the accident occurred when a 9-meter-long upward escalator that was operating at Exit 2 of Suinsaek Station ran backwards. Three subway passengers were hospitalized in the incident. Eleven other people were treated and sent home with relatively minor injuries. No one was seriously injured, including broken bones, but many people who were rushing to work or school had to be shaken up by the accident.

The subway station, department stores, shopping malls, and apartment complexes are densely populated, and the escalator was packed with passengers at the time of the accident. Many of the more than 100 passengers were looking at their phones or not holding onto the escalator handrails, which contributed to the damage.

Closed-circuit television footage released by the Fire and Disaster Management Center shows the escalator traveling to the ground level when it안전놀이터 suddenly stops and slides backwards for several seconds. Passengers fell like dominoes as the escalator reversed at increasingly high speeds, with some piled on top of each other at the bottom. Others went over the railing and fell in the opposite direction.

Police believe that it is unlikely that anyone at the scene could have tampered with the escalator’s manual controls. It is believed to be due to mechanical defects or aging.

A view of Exit 2 of Suminagyo Station, which was closed due to an escalator backing up on August 8. News
The 9-meter-long escalator was installed in 2009. Anti-backsliding devices are mandatory for escalators installed after July 2014, but it is unclear if they were installed on the device in question. It was also not subject to a detailed safety inspection 15 years after installation. A routine monthly inspection conducted by the Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) through a contractor last October and a safety inspection by the Korea Elevator Safety Corporation last September both found no abnormalities. “We will conduct a detailed analysis to determine the cause,” said a Korail official.

Some have pointed out that the safety checks were not done properly. Residents are agitated. A resident of Sunae-dong said, “In April, a citizen was killed in the collapse of a nearby gazebo bridge, and now it has happened again.” On a local online bulletin board, people wrote, “Safety inspections should be strengthened as unbelievable things have happened one after another.”

At 8:19 a.m. on the 8th, an escalator backed up at Sunae Station on the Bundang Line of the subway in Sunae-dong, Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do, injuring 14 people on their way to work. This photo shows the scene of the accident, courtesy of the Gyeonggi-do Fire and Disaster Management Center.
The incident bears a striking resemblance to an escalator backup accident that occurred 10 years ago in July 2013 at Yatap Station on the nearby Bundang Line, where 39 people were injured. In that case, an upward escalator ran backwards, causing chaos, but it was found that a maintenance contractor had replaced the gear connecting the reducer and motor with a “fake” instead of the original.

In 2017 and 2018, nine and 28 people were injured at Ansan and Daejeon stations, respectively, when escalators going up from the first floor to the second floor moved in the opposite direction. At the time, the government conducted emergency inspections of escalators in subway stations, bus terminals, airports, and railways, but accidents continue to occur. Escalators installed after 2014 are required to prevent reverse travel, but there are 26,128 escalators installed before then.

“It is necessary to install additional anti-reverse running devices on escalators installed before 2014,” said an expert, adding, “It is necessary to use parts that meet the exact specifications, but cheap, low-quality parts or poor management lead to accidents.”

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