Young child loses fingers in escalator accident

Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A young child lost three fingers in an escalator accident in Anchorage.

The accident occurred Saturday at the J.C. Penney store. A store employee confirmed that the 3-year-old girl was injured by the store escalator, calling it "a terrible thing."

John Cooley, a family friend, said the girl lost three fingers, and doctors are hoping she can keep her pinkie finger.

Cooley said the girl's hand became caught when the mother was paying for some items and the children were playing around the escalator. By the time rescuers got to her, the girl's fingers had been pulled into the escalator.

City officials said the girl's coat got caught in the escalator first and when she went after it her fingers became caught in the machine.

Dean Paul, co-owner of Alaska Yellow Cab, was on the top floor of the J.C. Penney Store when he heard the child yell.

"Mommy, help me! I'm stuck' is what she said," Paul said.

Paul said he ran over at about the same time as the mother. He pushed a button to stop the escalator, but by that time the child's fingers were trapped.

The girl was carrying a new coat, said Ron Thompson, municipal director of development services for the city. He said the coat got caught and the girl went after it.

Thompson said the entire coat was sucked in between the step and the escalator's teeth.

Paul and the others used hammers to pry up the top section of the escalator.

Just as the child's mangled hand was freed, paramedics arrived.

At one point during the rescue, Paul said the little girl told her mother she was sorry the coat was ruined.

"My heart just sank," he said.

Thompson said the escalator at Penney's is an older design. New models have automatic cutoffs if something gets caught in them. The older models have been grandfathered in, he said.

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