5 injured in escalator accident in New Jersey

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Screams and panic engulfed a commuter rail station Monday morning when an ascending escalator changed direction and started to head back down, causing some people to jump off mid-ride.

A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the station, said five people were injured when the escalator malfunctioned around 9 a.m. at the Exchange Place PATH station in Jersey City.

Three were taken to the hospital as a precaution, according to Port Authority Spokesman Ron Marsico. None of the injuries was considered life-threatening. They ranged from back and neck pain to scrapes, bumps and bruises, Marsico said.

Nick Lukish, of Brooklyn, N.Y., said he was headed to work and was midway up the escalator when the moving staircase started going down.

“There was a stampede at the base of the escalator,” Lukish said. “People started to panic and yell and scream, and I saw some people jump over to the down side of the escalator, so I jumped.”

The 33-year-old, who works in information technology at a bank in Jersey City, said it wasn’t until he got to work that he noticed he had cuts and bruises on his shins from the jump. After going to a pharmacy to get some bandages, he returned to the station to give his account to police.

A YouTube video showed some people jumping onto the divider between the up and down escalators as others shouted in alarm or tried to keep walking up.

Two of the station’s three escalators were shut down after the incident, forcing thousands of commuters to walk up the 128 stairs to the street.

The Exchange Place station suffered extensive damage during Superstorm Sandy. PATH officials were investigating what caused Monday’s escalator malfunction, “including whether Superstorm Sandy-related effects played a role,” Marsico said.

Escalator service at Exchange Place will be suspended through Tuesday morning, Marsico said, adding that workers were looking at all PATH escalators throughout the system.

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