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Chinese mother saves son seconds before falling to death inside escalator

Man watches wife die in China escalator accident
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Story highlights

  • 30-year-old mother saves her son but falls to her death when an escalator panel gives way
  • It is the latest in a series of accidents involving escalators in China
  • Victim's family goes online to vent anger over the mall's handling of the tragedy

Beijing (CNN)Security camera footage has emerged of a mother saving her young son's life seconds before losing her own on an escalator in China.

The 30-second video begins innocently enough: As the escalator in a shopping mall almost reaches the top, a woman in a white shirt and black skirt lifts up her young son to get ready to step off.
    But as she does, a metal panel collapses under her feet. She falls into the gap.
    Chinese state media on Monday named the woman as 31-year-old Xiang Liujuan.
    Struggling with only her upper body above the metal structure, Xiang is seen pushing her son forward. The boy is quickly pulled to safety by a mall employee standing near the top of the escalator.
    Two other mall employees try to drag Xiang out, but within a few seconds, she disappears through the hole into the escalator shaft.
    Despite a four-hour rescue operation at the upscale AZG Mall in central China, firefighters declared Xiang dead when they finally cut the escalator open and found her body Sunday afternoon, state media reported.
    Horrific accident atop escalator
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    'Human error'

    Officials in Jingzhou, a city of more than 5 million residents in Hubei province, blamed human error for the tragedy at a news conference Monday night.
    Mall employees found the collapsed panel to be loose and protruding five minutes before the incident but failed to stop the escalator for inspection and repair, said Chen Guanxin, the local official in charge of work safety.
    CNN's repeated phone calls to the shopping mall went unanswered Monday. A representative from the maintenance service provider declined to comment.

    Mounting number of escalator accidents

    State media on Monday also reported two other incidents involving escalators in shopping malls.
    In southwestern Guangxi province, a toddler's left hand and arm were caught in a gap of an escalator on Monday after he tripped and fell at the bottom, firefighters told local media. He suffered multiple trauma, including a fractured arm, and was hospitalized.
    In Beijing, a boy's foot was stuck in an escalator at a shopping mall on Sunday, according to People's Daily. He was rescued by firefighters within half an hour and appeared only slightly injured, witnesses told the newspaper.
    Last year, 13 people were injured when an escalator traveling upward abruptly reversed direction at a busy subway station in Shanghai. In 2011, a similar incident at a Beijing subway station killed a teenage boy and injured 30 others.

    Victim's family angry

    Frustrated with the mall's handling of the situation, Xiang's family members have gone online to call for a thorough and transparent investigation.
    "An ordinary Sunday shopping trip ended up in such a sudden tragedy, almost ruining an entire family," said user @kkcake, who identified herself as Xiang's sister-in-law and posted some of the earliest pictures from the scene on the popular microblogging site Weibo.
    "The shopping mall is still open and the killer escalators are still running," she added. "Shoppers have no idea about the tragedy upstairs and no one knows if such disasters will strike again."