$500K Lawsuit Filed In OC Escalator Fall

OCEAN CITY – The town of Ocean City, its Convention and Visitors Bureau and a private company have been named in a $500,000 civil suit filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court by a former Vermont high school student injured when an escalator in the Roland E. Powell Convention Center suddenly stopped and started heading in the opposite direction during a music competition at the facility in May 2006.

Several members of a band from a high school in Vermont, in Ocean City for the annual Youth Music Competition at the Convention Center, were injured when the north escalator to the second floor stopped suddenly and starting running in reverse. Several of the students fell during the accident and a handful were taken to Atlantic General Hospital where they were treated for a wide variety of injuries.

Nearly three years to the day of the accident, one of the injured students, Rebecca Beall, of Barre, Vt., filed suit in U.S. District Court claiming negligence against the town of Ocean City, the Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc., which operates the facility, and the private ThyssenKrupp Elevator Company, which was retained by the town to service and maintain the escalator. The suit is seeking $500,000 in damages jointly and severally against the defendants for their various alleged roles in the accident.

“On May 5, 2006, and while at the Convention Center with the band, Rebecca Beall followed her classmates and stepped onto an escalator traveling upwards to the second floor,” the complaint reads. “While on the escalator, and without any warning whatsoever, the escalator suddenly stopped, and then the escalator stairs either immediately fell and/or began traveling in the reverse direction. As a direct and proximate result of the escalator stopping without warning and falling and going in the reverse direction, Rebecca Beall and numerous other classmates fell down.”

According to reports on the accident from three years ago, there were around 25 people on the escalator at the time it malfunctioned and as many as 10 Vermont high school students were injured including Beall. The complaint filed earlier this month alleges Beall was injured severely when several of the students fell on her and pinned her to the moving escalator.

“As a direct and proximate result of the defendants’ negligence, Rebecca Beall fell with her face toward the escalator,” the complaint reads. “Rebecca Beall was pinned down on the escalator by the weight of other classmates who had fallen on top of her. The continued movement of the escalator repeatedly lacerated her face, scalp and shoulder while she was pinned down and unable to move.”

The complaint goes on to state the victim suffers from severe headaches, migraines, nausea, chills, shaking, blackouts and light and sound sensitivity. It also states she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic migraine disorder and also suffers from anxiety and phobias of escalators as a result of the May 5, 2006 incident.

The complaint details an extensive list of repairs and maintenance on the north escalator dating back to June 2005 or just under a year before the incident and continuing throughout the year until just two weeks prior to its failing on May 5, 2006. At different times during the year prior to the incident, ThyssenKrupp serviced the escalator and identified several problems with it, according to the complaint.

“There were numerous problems with the north escalator prior to May 5, 2006, of which all of the defendants knew, had reason to know and/or should have known,” the complaint reads.

Nearly a year after the accident, Ocean City retained an independent inspector to evaluate the condition of the escalator and the level of preventative maintenance performed by ThyssenKrupp and issued a maintenance audit survey report. In their report, evaluators stated they “observed numerous gear parts that were worn and failing, including bad bearings, sheared bolts, worn pinion gear and a chipped tooth to the brass gear,” according to the complaint.

“Lerch Bates concluded that the maintenance of the escalator at issue was deficient in a number of areas,” and “despite the number of problems with the escalator prior to May 5, 2006, Ocean City did not conduct a review of the maintenance performed on the escalator, or the safety of the escalators, until several passengers, including Rebecca Beall, were injured.”

The complaint names ThyssenKrupp as a defendant because it allegedly failed to service and maintain the escalator properly.

“ThyssenKrupp knew, had reason to know and/or should have known that the continued operation of the north escalator was not safe, and had it performed its responsibilities for maintaining the north escalator properly, the incident never would have occurred,” the complaint reads.

The town of Ocean City and the Convention and Visitors Bureau were included in the suit because they allegedly should have known the escalator was not safe given the extensive service record on it prior to the accident.

“Despite the repeated problems with the escalator, Ocean City did not shut down the north escalator in order to determine the cause of the repeated problems plaguing it, and/or request that a safety investigation be performed in order to ensure the escalator would operate safely,” the complaint reads.