N.J. PATH Escalator Does What We’re Always Afraid Of & Suddenly Reverses Direction

Anyone who’s ever dealt with a crowded daily commute on public transit, or heck, anyone who’s ever been on an escalator has likely had that feeling of, “What if it suddenly A. turns into a ramp and I slide backward into everyone below me B. reverses direction and we all crash into each other or C. something gets caught in the teeth and it eats me?” Commuters at a New Jersey PATH station faced scenario B this morning, in an incident that caused multiple injuries.

A Port Authority spokesman said at least four people were hurt this morning when an escalator suddenly malfunctioned at the Exchange Street PATH station, reports The Jersey Journal.

There hasn’t been much else reported about the incident, but the spokesman did assure everyone that none of those injuries are serious — which we hope means no one got stuck and possibly devoured.

There is at least one video floating around on the Internets that shows exactly how confusing the situation was, with commuters trying to keep upward momentum by clambering up the stairs as the escalator tried to take them back down.

Consumerist reader Timothy has a theory as to how/why the reversal happened, noting a similar incident in 2010 in D.C. His idea seems plausible:

What happened then (and what I think might have happened in PATH) is that the escalator had too many people on it, so it tried to do what it’s built to do in such a situation: turn off, to avoid sustaining damage to its motors from the weight. It did turn off, but then the brakes never engaged. So the weight of all the people pushed the escalator down very quickly.

Multiple injuries in escalator mishap at Exchange Place PATH station [The New Jersey Journal]