18 February 2019
Shoppers at Langham Place had anxious moments on Saturday as an escalator suddenly malfunctioned, sending people crashing to the ground. Photos: YouTube
Shoppers at Langham Place had anxious moments on Saturday as an escalator suddenly malfunctioned, sending people crashing to the ground. Photos: YouTube

Two technicians arrested after mall escalator accident

Two technicians from Otis Elevator Co. (Hong Kong) were arrested on Sunday in connection with a shopping mall escalator accident in Mong Kok over the weekend that left 18 people injured. 

The technicians were taken into custody on suspicion that they tinkered with the escalator after the incident, possibly tampering with evidence.

The men, aged 22 and 52, were charged with obstruction of justice, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

On Saturday, one of the escalators at the Langham Place mall-cum-office building in Mong Kok malfunctioned, sending people crashing into the ground and causing panic at the facility.

The accident happened at about 4 pm as an escalator connecting the 4th and 8th floors of the mall reversed direction all of a sudden, throwing people off balance.

As many as 18 people were injured as they crashed into each other before falling to the base of the moving stairway.

One person, a 47-year-old male surnamed Ma, suffered serious head injury and was being treated at the Kwong Wah Hospital.

Following the accident, Otis Elevator has come under scrutiny as it was the contractor responsible for maintenance of the escalators at Langham Place.

Inspectors from the government’s Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) visited the mall and conducted checks.

Experts suspect the accident happened due to malfunctioning of the brake assist system in the escalator.

The EMSD shut down the system and ordered that no one should touch the equipment, in order to facilitate investigations.

But authorities found late Sunday that someone had restarted the system, in violation of the orders.

Suspecting that someone may have tampered with evidence, the officials called the police.

After conducting inquiries, the police came to know that two Otis technicians had been at the scene earlier and concluded that they were the ones who broke the rules.

The two men, surnamed Cheung and Yu, were arrested and charged with obstruction of justice.

The duo was granted bail later and ordered to report themselves to the police in mid-April, according to Ming Pao Daily.

An Otis spokesman said late Sunday that the two technicians were only sent there to provide support and that the company was surprised at their arrests.

Otis will defend its employees, while assisting the EMSD in investigations, the spokesman said.

Following Saturday’s incident, the EMSD has instructed escalator service contractors to complete within a month full inspections of all escalators with vertical height exceeding 15 meters.

Langham Place announced Sunday that services of two pairs of long escalators, one that connects level 4 and 8 and the other connecting level 8 and level 12 at the building, were suspended. 

According to Wong Kai-hon, principal instructor (Electrical) at the Vocational Training Council, there are about 50-plus such long escalators in the city.

Inspections should focus on drive chains, brake apparatus and auxiliary brake devices, he said.

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