Man Died From Falling Off Escalator at the Detroit Airport

Two years ago a grandmother pushed herself down an escalator in a wheelchair at the Portland airport, tumbled down and received injuries that led to complications from which she eventually died. Apparently she had refused assistance – and thought the escalator was an elevator.

Another sad airport escalator now comes to us from Detroit where a man went to the airport to pick up his wife. He met her, and her mother, at baggage claim. He took their bags with him and headed to get the car. And then he “died after slipping on the airport escalator while adjusting the roller bag on the step behind him.”

Quigley stepped on to the escalator with a dark-colored hand bag in his left hand and a large red roller bag in his right. He was wearing brown flip flops. With the larger bag on the step behind him, he turned to adjust it, slipped, fell backwards, hit the ground, and became unresponsive.

It’s a sad story, and the family is now campaigning for signs warning passengers not to use escalators with luggage. The airport, however, has no plans put up such signage (nor to ban luggage on escalators).

The man’s family, though, “believes that had their been a no-luggage sign, with arrows pointing to the nearby elevator, their father might have opted to use the elevator instead of the escalator that day.”

Sometimes signs do save lives. For instance home iron manufacturers have given us warnings like not to iron clothes while wearing them.

(HT: Ken A.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve seen signs by escalators warning not to carry luggage on them. The sign may save lives, but most folks just ignore them, myself included.

  2. The signs probably do more to protect the airport from liability than they do in preventing people from taking luggage on the escalator

  3. I’m sorry the man lost his life but Should he have been smarter, may be he would take a piece at a time. Now the family wants to blame the accident on the airport. Only in America the companies are blamed for people’s stupid behavior.

  4. I disagree with some comments, a sign pointing to nearby elevators would be great.
    I cringe at the idea of dragging luggage on escalators. I also try to avoid riding an escalator when someone is using an airport luggage cart that is escalator safe when used properly.

  5. I think the airport should install a sign warning of using the escalator while wearing flip flops. Just sayin.

  6. Getting off cruise ships in Miami, you have to go down an escalator in the terminal. They have someone stationed there to ensure you have a free hand to hold the escalator railing. If not, you are required to go down in the elevator.

  7. I am a semi frequent traveler to DTW. The escalator is steep and I can see how something like this happened. There are elevators nearby, clearly marked. More often than not, I choose to use the escalator, as it’s faster. We all make choices and have to accept personal responsibility for them.

  8. Unfortunately many large airports are not designed to take on the large volume of passengers with luggage not even a small amount of them typically
    Frankly its shocking that the government allows the lack of large spacious well maintained elevators
    Not only is there a lack of elevators with spacious interiors for passengers with luggage but there isn’t even enough space for handicapped passengers to get up and down in elevators
    And mahy are in horrendous run down condition
    Just check out terminal 5 at LAX or Tom Bradley its criminal
    O Hare isn’t much better
    While Flip Flops are unacceptable airport wear IMO at anytime
    the accident could have occurred with or without them
    I’ve had my luggage tip over or fall off to the next step a number of times before
    One needs to be incredibly cautious
    Safe Travels All

  9. Condolences to the family. For anyone taking an escalator, even if there is no official sign depicting a person on the escalator while holding the handrail, please remember to use the handrail. There are accidents on elevators such as getting stuck between floors, and tyically restarting while an unfortunate person is in the process of exiting, claustrophobic passengers that have panic attacks, Bend’s Chilli customers that had a two hour flight delay and needed to make a quick put stop, whatever. So elevators have limits.
    Staircases… dont even think about not having a free hand to catch yourself. Especially in flip flops.
    Escalators… when they lose power, like dominoes, people tumble. The ones using the rail may prevent others from somersaulting to the bottom. This happens both to the people going up or down an escalator. People going up may initially lurch forward but then counteract the forward momentum too much and fall backward. That’s like a ten foot fall for a 5 to 6 foot tall person.
    Morgan &Morgan subpoenas everyone from the power company to Samsonite to the DollarTree that sold the flip flops. Meanwhile, the little boy that pushed that Big Red Stop button is jetting off to Disneyworld looking for more buttons to test.

  10. For the “no luggage” crowd, define luggage. Airport elevators are slow and few in number. They can’t handle much traffic.

  11. I was going up one of those LONG DFW escalators to the SkyTrain last year. A woman had a roll-aboard in tow which tipped over, pulling her backwards! Fortunately, there were 2 men behind her who managed to catch her. Scary.

  12. At BKK they have these huge rolling escalators without steps just a moving belt at less incline than your usual ones. These can comfortably accommodate luggage carts and we have used them often. Why can’t other airports have such convenience?

  13. It is a little hard to picture what happened. Was he going up the escalator, fell backward, and tumbled back, hitting his head?

    FWIW, I find the elevators in some airports faster than the escalators, particularly when going up several levels. At BRU and IAD, for example. I don’t think many people realize this.

  14. The local building codes define the minimum safety signage for escalators. The manufacturers always include the minimum safety signage which are typically those small little warning placards at the bottom entrance of each escalator. Some jurisdictions even limit the amount of signage adjacent to escalators as they can distract passengers from the safe usage of the conveyance. In addition, the year of installation determines the code year you follow which unfortunately leads to an inconsistent passenger experience eVen within the same building complex as expansion and new installations occur. The only time you are technically required to comply with the most current code is when you are modifying the conveyance. I have seen way too many mangled feet and banged up heads from passenger falls or mangled feet from being sucked down into the sides (that’s why you see those brushes on the sides to prevent that, they aren’t just to clean your shoes!). People dragging coats which then sucked into the machinery. Why do elderly use escalators? That’s always an accident waiting to happen. The Great Old USA is the worst when it come to escalator safety; the elevators are usually never installed adjacent and typically around the corner and down a hallway with limited signage directing you to the safer alternative. Foreign facilities are way better. They usually have bollards restricting acces to prevent strollers and carts. They have elevators adjacent with clear visible signage pointing to the elevators. Why can’t we do that here in the USA? The Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation is a great resource of information.

    Has anyone ever ridden those really cool wooden ones in Boston that are a death trap? I remember playing on them when I was a kid.

    Please help spread the word and Do your part looking out for the uninformed. If you see kids playing on escalators, stop them. If you see a struggling elderly person or anyone struggling for that matter attempting to use an escalator, stop them and direct them to the nearest elevator instead. Baby strollers? = elevator not escalator.

    It’s hard to win in these lawsuits because the safety signage will always meet code and the videos that capture the incident usually show they shouldn’t have been using the escalator in the first place or we’re doing something that goes against the safety signage.

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