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Escalator's sudden reverse injures 5 at commuter train station

By Erinn Cawthon, CNN
January 8, 2013 -- Updated 0042 GMT (0842 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "You could hear people screaming, people were jumping off the sides," says a witness
  • Three are taken to hospitals after the accident at Exchange Place station in Jersey City
  • Officials shut down escalator service at the station until Tuesday
  • Officials said escalators would be checked throughout the PATH system

(CNN) -- Five people were injured -- three seriously enough to require hospital treatment -- when an escalator at a commuter rail station in New Jersey suddenly went into high-speed reverse Monday morning, authorities said.

The incident occurred at the Exchange Place station in Jersey City, and the three injured and taken to hospitals had possible back or neck injuries, according to Ron Marsico, spokesman for the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) service.

Alex Rodriguez, 30, was on his way to work when he saw the malfunction on the opposite escalator and immediately took out his phone to capture a video.

"Everyone started looking around and then it starts to go down at an accelerated rate," Rodriguez told CNN. "At that point, people started piling up towards the bottom and couldn't get off the escalator fast enough."

Rodriguez's video footage showed commuters struggling to climb up the fast-moving escalator. Rodriguez said the escalator finally stopped after a minute.

"You could hear people screaming, people were jumping off the sides," said Rodriguez. "People lined up against the wall at the bottom (were) crying after they got off."

PATH officials are investigating whether the effects of Superstorm Sandy played a role in Monday's incident, according to a PATH statement. Neither the statement nor Marsico specified why officials think the storm's after-effects might manifest themselves in an escalator accident.

"As a precaution, PATH has suspended escalator service at Exchange Place through (Tuesday) morning," said Marsico. "In addition, workers are reviewing all PATH escalators throughout the system."

While that station's escalators are out of the service, the station remains open, with customers directed to stairs and elevators.

Rodriguez, the witness, said that since Sandy, the Jersey City PATH station hit by Monday's incident has had major issues. "To see something like that happen was really icing on the cake," he said.

The conditions of those injured, including the three taken to hospitals, could not be determined Monday afternoon.

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