Elderly couple injured at Clementi MRT station, claim escalator reversed direction suddenly

They allegedly fell after the escalator "suddenly malfunctioned".

Ilyda Chua | October 07, 2023, 05:48 PM



Editor's note on Oct. 8, 9:40pm: This article has been updated to include statement from SMRT and BCA on the incident.

Three elderly commuters fell after an alleged escalator malfunction at Clementi MRT station on Oct. 5.

Responding to queries from Mothership on the incident, SMRT Trains President Lam Sheau Kai said that subsequent checks on the escalator found that there were no technical issues and that it had been outfitted with a device that would have tripped in the event of a malfunction.

Lacterations and bruises

According to a Mothership reader, Twang Kern Zern, the incident took place at about 9:30am.

Twang — whose parents-in-law were involved in the incident — said that the escalator which was upriding, "suddenly malfunctioned" and reversed direction, causing three elderly commuters — including his parents-in-law, both in their late 70s — to lose their balance and fall.

As they were trying to recover, the escalator reversed again and began travelling back upwards, Twang said.

Both his parents-in-law were badly injured as a result of the fall.

His father-in-law, aged 79, sustained lacerations and bruising all over his body and a cut on his head.

Photo from Mothership reader

Photo from Mothership reader

Photo from Mothership reader

Photo from Mothership reader

His mother-in-law, aged 77, suffered a dislocated elbow, a wrist fracture, and numbness in her fingers.

She was allegedly at the "bottom of the pile" when the three commuters fell, Twang told Mothership.

Photo from Mothership reader

Photo from Mothership reader

The couple was conveyed by ambulance to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) for treatment and have since been discharged.

SMRT contacted

Twang said his wife contacted SMRT's feedback line and is currently following up with them.

So far, the public transport operator has told the family that they are investigating the incident, which they attributed to a mechanical fault, and wished the injured couple a "speedy recovery".

"We are surprised that they did not even follow up with a phone call to check on my parents-in-law," he said.

Twang added that the station staff helped to call an ambulance and bandage some of the wounds, but seemed unsure of what to do.

Members of the public also stepped up to help the couple with their injuries, such as by offering the man tissues to help stop the bleeding.

In response to Mothership's enquiries, the Singapore Civil Defence Force confirmed that they received a call for assistance at the MRT station and conveyed three people to NTFGH.

SMRT says no technical issues found

President of SMRT Trains Lam Sheau Kai responded to queries from Mothership with a statement saying that the escalator in question was checked for faults but no technical issues were found and that the accident had been caused by a commuter losing his balance.

Here is Lam's statement in full:

"On 5 October at about 10am, our station staff were alerted to an incident on an up-riding escalator at Clementi MRT station.

A commuter lost his balance and fell onto two other commuters behind him. Our station staff quickly went on-site and assisted. Our staff provided first aid and activated SCDF for their assistance. For the safety of our commuters, the escalator was immediately cordoned off for checks. This escalator is installed with a non-reversible device (NRD) and would have tripped if any reverse direction is detected.

BCA reviewed the footage on the day of the incident and confirmed that there were no technical issues with the escalator. Our escalator maintenance contractor had also conducted a thorough check and confirmed that there was no fault on the escalator. The escalator was put back in service thereafter.

Our Care team has reached out to the commuters and are in contact with them to render assistance.

Commuters should hold onto the handrails while on the escalator. We also encourage commuters, especially the elderly, wheelchair users, commuters with mobility issues, and those travelling with babies in prams to use the lift for their own safety."

BCA reviewed CCTV footage and did not observe any form of escalator reversal or equipment anomalies

The Building and Construction Authority also gave a statement on this incident on Oct. 8 after their engineers looked into the incident on the same day.

Here's the statement in full:

"BCA was notified of an escalator incident at Clementi MRT station by SMRT Trains Ltd (“SMRT”) on the morning of 5 October 2023. BCA engineers responded to this incident on the same day.

BCA engineers inspected the incident escalator, including the steps and handrails, and checks did not reveal any equipment abnormities. BCA engineers also reviewed the CCTV footage during the incident, and did not observe any form of escalator reversal or equipment anomalies. The other passengers who were on the same escalator at the same time were observed to have completed the ride without any difficulties.

BCA requires all escalators in public transport areas such as MRT stations, to install a non-reversal device, which is safety feature that protects against accidental or inadvertent reversing of an escalator operating in the upward direction. When activated, this device turns off the motor and activates the brake, bringing the escalator to a smooth stop.

BCA encourages the elderly and parents with young children in strollers to use the lifts. When using escalators, the public is reminded to:

•     Hold on to the handrail

•     Not use the escalator when pushing strollers or carrying bulky items

•     Keep shoes away from the side of escalators

•     Stand within the yellow lines"

Top image via Twang Kern Zern and Google Maps