Montreal Metro scarf tangling leads to woman's death

A 47-year-old woman is dead after her scarf got caught in the escalator at the Fabre Metro station in Montreal.

Woman's hair caught in escalator while trying to dislodge scarf at Fabre Metro station

RAW | Montreal Police explain what happened in metro escalator death

9 years ago
Duration 1:09
Montreal police say the woman whose scarf got caught in the escalator died at the scene.

A 47-year-old woman died Thursday morning after her scarf got caught in the escalator at the Fabre Metro station in Montreal.

While she was trying to pull up her scarf from the escalator, her hair got caught too. —Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant, SPVM

The incident happened around 9:15 a.m. ET at an unsupervised automatic entrance to the Metro station on the blue line.

Montreal police said a witness reported seeing the woman with her scarf stuck in the escalator.

Bassam Joubarani, who saw the woman lying on the floor at the bottom of the escalators, says she was breathing but unconscious. (CBC)
"While she was trying to pull up her scarf from the escalator, her hair got caught too and from there, everything got tied up at the end of the escalators,” said Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant of the Montreal police.

Other subway riders tried to help

Montrealer Bassam Joubarani was making his way toward the exit of the Fabre Metro station when he saw the woman lying unconscious, at the bottom of the escalators.

"Half her body [was] on the floor, and less than half her body was on the stairs," said Joubarani, adding that two people were trying to help her.

“She was laying on her back.… Her face was normal colour and she was breathing.”

Police said the woman was in cardiac arrest when firefighters and paramedics arrived, and she was declared dead at the scene.

"She got strangled … and the woman passed away on scene,” Brabant said.

The coroner has taken over the investigation.

The entrance to the Metro, located in the Montreal borough of Villeray-St-Michel-Parc-Extension, remained closed for several hours as police interviewed witnesses and reviewed surveillance video.

STM says escalators up to code

Montreal’s transit authority refused to comment on the incident, but Société de transport de Montréal spokeswoman Isabelle Tremblay said all the escalators in Montreal’s Metro station are up to code.

The entrance of the Metro at Jean-Talon Street East and Fabre Street was closed for several hours while the coroner and police investigate. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)
The STM said it believes Thursday’s fatal incident is the first of its kind.

“We don’t have exact statistics on escalators … but from memory this would be the first time a fatal accident occurs on an escalator,” Tremblay wrote in an email to Radio-Canada.

In 1989, a girl lost four fingers after her hand got caught when she tried to pick up grapes she had dropped.

In Quebec, any escalator installed in the past 17 years is required to have an automatic shutdown feature — a sensor in the comb plate at the top and bottom of the escalator that automatically shuts down the conveyor if something gets caught and enough pressure is exerted.

U.S. escalator fatalities

Last year, a 42-year-old man was killed in Seattle after his shirt got caught on an escalator at a bus terminal.

In 2012, an 88-year-old woman fell down an escalator at a New York rail station and choked to death when her clothes got tangled in the escalator’s treads.

An 82-year-old woman was killed in 2009 when she fell off an escalator at a Boston transit station and her clothes got caught in the machinery.

In 2005, a 34-year-old man died at a Boston transit station when his sweatshirt got caught in the escalator’s machinery.

According to an article in the U.S. publication Pediatrics, about 16,000 people are injured on escalators in that country every year, though the vast majority of those aren’t serious.

The injury rate in the U.S. is 221 a year per 1,000 escalators — much higher than the average injury rate on elevators, which is 15 a year per 1,000 elevators.

While similar statistics aren’t available in Canada, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), which administers and enforces technical standards in Ontario, reports three people were permanently or seriously injured in escalator accidents in the province in 2012-13.

The B.C. Safety Authority reports six serious injuries in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available.