Friday, December 18, 2009

Boy alive crushed between two escalators


A four-year-old boy had his young age to thank after surviving a horrifying accident that saw him crushed between two escalators.

Doctors said that had Stevie Webb been older, his neck would have been snapped when he was bent double in the foot-wide gap between two ramp-style travelators.

The incident occurred when Stevie's mother turned her back and he sneaked between the two walkways, which were moving in opposite directions, in the Savacentre in Colliers Wood, south-west London.

Lucky escape: Stevie Webb was caught between two travelators at a south-west London shopping centre

In seconds his clothes were caught and Stevie was whipped round backwards so hard his head was level with his ankles.

His horrified mother hit the machine's emergency stop button before dragging him free with the help of a friend.

The force of the impact and twisting motion left Stevie with discoloured eyes and face because blood vessels burst under the skin.

Doctors told Stevie's parents that had their son been any older, and his bones more set, the force of the accident would have snapped his neck.

It is expected to take at least a month for Stevie's complexion to return to normal.


An investigation has now been launched at the Savacentre.

On the road to recovery: Stevie will regain full health, but doctors say if he had been older his injuries would have been fatal

Stevie's father Darren Webb, 39, from Mitcham, Surrey, said his son's injuries were so severe he resembled the blue-purple alien characters from the film 'Avatar'.

He said: 'It's left him looking like an extra out of that new Avatar film. He doesn't have any white left in his eyes and it could be months until the colour in his face goes back to normal.

'The doctors said he'd been incredibly lucky because his neck and body were so contorted. It's only because he's so young and supple that his neck didn't break.'

Mr Webb was in the centre's car park waiting to pick up his family when the accident happened. He immediately rushed unconscious Stevie to St George's Hospital, Tooting, less than a mile away.

But Mr Webb said he was planning to take legal action against the centre after its manager refused to take responsibility for the accident, claiming the boy's mother was not watching him at the time.

Mr Webb, who has spoken to centre manager Eric Sante and watched CCTV footage of the accident, said: 'I'll put my hands up and agree my child was playing while his mum's back was turned - but four-year-olds do that sort of thing.

'There was no kind of protection or barrier to stop this from happening but the shopping centre manager still wants to make out that this is our fault.

'It's unbelievable - my son nearly died.'

Horrific accident: Travelators at the Savacentre (no members of the Webb family are pictured)

Mr Sante said: 'Mr Webb came in on Monday screaming and demanding to see CCTV footage which we let him do.

'I sat him down and apologised but told him I was in no position to accept responsibility for what happened.'

He added the CCTV footage showed Stevie playing next to the travelator while his mother was on the phone.

The incident has already been referred to the shopping centre's legal team.

MB Trust, which manages the area where the walkways operate, said it was officially checked twice a year and the most recent check was in November.

Juliet Bray, marketing director of MB Real Estate, an arm of MB Trust, said: 'It's a horrible incident and I can't imagine how upsetting it must have been for the parents and the little boy.

'I'm confident that we've done what is needed to make it safe. I'm very moved and I know that all of my colleagues are too and they will take every step necessary to make sure this doesn't happen again.'

The travelator is situated near to the shopping centre's Sainsbury's store.

A Sainsbury's spokesman said: 'We would like to express our sympathies to the Webb family for this incident. We have been in contact with MB Real Estate who confirmed that they are taking every possible step to prevent something like this happening again.

'As soon as our colleagues at the store were made aware of the accident they began to give first aid and also called an ambulance.'
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