NJ - Stadium escalator mishaps tied to brake failure

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Stadium escalator mishaps tied to brake failure Thursday, October 5, 2000


EAST RUTHERFORD -- Two escalator mishaps during pro football games at Giants Stadium last month occurred after the brakes on the moving stairways failed, Meadowlands authorities said Wednesday.

Four riders were injured in one of the incidents, in which fans were sent hurtling down a 60-foot escalator after a Sept. 12 game between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots.

On Wednesday, Meadowlands authorities revealed that two more incidents occurred during the Sept. 24 game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins.

In one of those incidents, brake failure caused an escalator carrying spectators to the mezzanine level to reverse direction and move backward, said a report released Wednesday by Meadowlands authorities.

No one was reported injured in that mishap.

A third malfunction, also on Sept. 24, occurred after an electrical short circuit caused a circuit breaker to trip, the report said.

No one was injured in the third incident, although the report said some riders "were given the mistaken impression that they were moving backwards," an illusion Meadowlands authorities attributed to a parallel escalator that continued to run.

The 1 1/2-page New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority report was compiled by the agency's operations staff during the past two weeks, officials said.

"This is something that the authority takes very seriously," said Dan Emmer, a Meadowlands spokesman.

"It concerns us that for 25 years, our escalators have operated almost flawlessly, and now over the last several weeks, we've had three malfunctions. We are taking proactive steps to ensure that the escalators continue to operate safely. And we do not believe that this is indicative of a larger problem."

Meadowlands authorities ordered a complete safety review of all 24 escalators at the 79,464-seat stadium. Meanwhile, technicians from Schindler Elevator replaced the brakes on all three malfunctioning escalators, the report said.

In addition, Emmer said, the authority plans to refurbish all of the stadium's escalators, many of which were installed when the venue was built in 1975. The three-year project is expected to cost $3.7 million, the Meadowlands spokesman said.

In the report, Meadowlands authorities concluded that overloading caused both brake failures. Witnesses to the Sept. 12 incident said the escalator was filled with spectators shortly before the stairway began to move at a higher-than-normal rate of speed.

Some industry experts argue that escalators malfunction because of maintenance problems, not because of an inability to bear weight.

"There are records of brake failures like this happening all over the nation," said Carl J. White, an escalator safety consultant in Colorado Springs, Colo. "It's primarily because of a lack of, or improper, maintenance."

Brake failures that reverse "up" escalators can cause serious injuries, experts said. In June 1994, a brake malfunction on an escalator at the Camden Yards baseball stadium in Baltimore injured 28 people after dozens of Orioles fans were sent tumbling backwards. In February 1996, 22 people were injured when an escalator in Boston's Back Bay subway station suddenly reversed direction.

Meadowlands authorities have refused to release detailed information requested by The Record about the maintenance of their escalators -- including specifics on how often the moving stairways are serviced, whether they are repaired by certified mechanics, and whether they had been subjected to a "static load test," in which weights are used to see whether the brakes hold.

"That falls into the category of non-public information," Emmer said.

Meadowlands authorities did report that they paid Schindler $218,000 last year for "a highly qualified team of skilled technicians," including a resident technician assigned exclusively to the stadium year-round.

Authority officials said their escalators are inspected twice a year by the state. In addition, the escalators are checked twice a week by Schindler technicians before each event, they said.

During the next six weeks, the report said, Schindler technicians will conduct another inspection of every escalator at the stadium and, if necessary, replace the brakes on each


-- Doris (reaper@pacifier.com), October 05, 2000

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