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MBTA Says Inspectors Checked Escalator 3 Weeks Before It Malfunctioned

BOSTON (CBS) - A maintenance crew was on the escalator at the MBTA's Back Bay station checking it over Monday, one day after ambulances rushed nine people hurt there Sunday.

"All of the sudden we just hear people screaming and the escalator is going like down backwards while we're all going up," said Ava Leonhardt, who was in the middle of the chaos when it happened. "Then there's just people just like toppling over each other, and everyone's crying, screaming," she said.

"This little girl at the bottom, she had most of her side of the face was gone, and her ear was almost off her head, and her mother had part of her scalp missing," said Claire Maia, another passenger who was there.

One of the passengers found a red emergency stop button and hit it.

Back Bay escalator
The escalator at the Back Bay MBTA station. (WBZ-TV)

KONE is the escalator company. MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo says, "under a contract with the MBTA, Kone regularly inspects and maintains the T's 177 escalators system-wide." He said that last week, more than 98% were functioning without any problem.

A sticker on the escalator shows it was last checked in July of 2021. Pesaturo says it's been checked "for basic operation" every month since, most recently three weeks ago on September 7.

"Obviously they need to do something," said MBTA passenger Christopher Akey. "It seems like things are kind of falling apart a bit."

It's not the first time the Back Bay station has had escalator problems. In 2011, a crowd headed to the Bruins duck boat parade was knocked down, as a boy's foot was caught in the machinery. In 1995, more than 20 people were hurt in a similar incident.

"I just think they need to figure out what went wrong, so it doesn't happen again," said Leonhardt. For now, she says she has no problem with the escalator being off-limits. "I don't think you're going to see me on an escalator again," she said.

The MBTA says the investigation is ongoing, with no word yet on what caused the malfunction.

In a statement, KONE said, "The safety and well-being of the public is our top priority at KONE. We are working closely with the MBTA and other appropriate authorities to gather the facts and determine what may have caused the incident that occurred at the Back Bay station Sunday, and our thoughts go out to those who sustained injuries."

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