Durban - A 6-year-old boy whose foot was stuck between the escalator step and platform in a Durban shopping mall is recovering in hospital after a two-hour-45-minute ordeal to extricate it.
Euan Hird was with his parents and relatives, leaving Gateway through the main forecourt entrance from the first floor, when the near tragic incident occurred on Tuesday night.
UK resident, Will Hird, and his wife, Nishala, formerly of Durban, and their children, Zara, 3, and Euan, 6, are on a three-week holiday in Durban to visit relatives.
The family had been to a restaurant and were going down the escalator, each on different steps, said the boy’s uncle Pranesh Jaikisson. A relative, Paven, was in front, followed by Euan and Will Hird. Zara was on her father’s shoulders. Jaikisson was behind him along with other relatives and their children. They were marvelling at the water feature next to the escalator.
“It happened so fast. We felt the escalator vibrate and shake. We heard a bang and then Euan screamed. Paven noticed that Euan’s foot was lodged between the platform and the escalator step. He turned back and hit the emergency stop button.
“It was then that we realised what happened. If Paven had not reacted quickly, the injury would have been worse,” Jaikisson said.
While most of the family were stunned, some of them began scrambling around to get Euan’s foot out manually. Hird said he went crazy, trying to pull out the floor and side panels to free his son.
The family thought of removing Euan’s takkies so his foot could be freed, but it didn’t work. Volunteers and emergency workers were not able to free Euan before an escalator technician arrived.
“People were using the light from cellphones before a proper light system was brought in. One hour had elapsed. He kept saying, ‘Daddy help me, save me, take me out’. The paramedics gave him something to calm him down,” Hird said.
“The technician arrived, but could only move the escalator forward before putting it in reverse. This proved dangerous and was not carried out,” Hird said.
For the entire rescue, Euan was sitting on his mother’s lap. She had to keep Euan upright and his leg straight to avoid further injuries or his leg from snapping in case of sudden movements.
Hird said he became emotional and could not wait for the ordeal to end.
Jaikisson said the family pleaded with an employee of Acorn Shopfitters, working nearby, for help before emergency crews took over.
“The shopfitters had the right equipment for the job. They used a blow torch to split the escalator step in half. This gave them more space to take the foot out.
“The shoe was still stuck so Netcare paramedics gently removed Euan’s socks and slid his foot out. Every minute meant so much. The support from the public was overwhelming,” Jaikisson said.
One of the restaurants supplied the family with a cloth to cover mother and son to stop them being burned by sparks from the torch.
Netcare 911 spokesman, Chris Botha, said the technician, “described by the emergency services as the hero of the night”, worked feverishly to extricate the child’s foot from the stairs.
“Paramedics tirelessly worked for hours to treat and stabilise the child while the extrication efforts continued. At about midnight, emergency workers managed to free the child,” Botha said.
Euan was taken to Netcare Umhlanga Hospital. Hird said his son’s right foot was crushed and he had soft tissue and bone damage. He had surgery on Wednesday and would undergo more surgery today to close the wound.
The management of Gateway Theatre of Shopping were investigating the circumstances surrounding the accident, said spokeswoman Aileen Rodel.
“The management team was on site during the course of the evening following the incident. We will continue to offer support to the family during their son’s recovery,” she said.
Hird said his son was a keen swimmer and martial arts pupil. He attends Wilson’s Endowed school in the town of Over Kellet in Lancashire.
Jaikisson said Euan loved Durban and, when he phoned them from their home in Britain, he would count the days to the next holiday in South Africa. The family has cancelled the safari they were supposed to go on on Thursday.
“He is a very bubbly child and a good entertainer at family functions. He loves to sing,” Jaikisson said.
On Wednesday afternoon Hird said he had slept for only an hour since the incident happened.