Calif. fire, EMS crews free teen whose hand got stuck in mall escalator

Orange County Battalion Chief Michael Morganstern said crewmembers gave the girl pain medication while disassembling the mechanism


Eric Licas
The Press-Enterprise

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A 13-year-old girl’s hand got tangled beneath the handrail of an escalator at a shopping mall in Santa Ana on Sunday, July 31, and had to be freed by firefighters.

The injury occurred at the south end of the MainPlace Mall at about 6:30 p.m., Orange County Fire Authority Battalion Chief Michael Morganstern said.

About eight firefighters worked to free her on the first floor as bystanders watched.

The girl was given medication for pain while rescuers disassembled the mechanism, Morganstern said. Then, a small Dremel was used to grind away the remaining plastic and metal binding her hand.

“Sometimes we use the biggest tools we could absolutely have,” Morganstern said. “Sometimes we use the smallest tool in our bag of tricks. … The biggest tool any firefighter can have is their brain.”

The process took over an hour.

Afterward, the girl wept and called out for her mother with her right arm wrapped in bandages as she was on a stretcher that was loaded into an ambulance.

“I’m here, mija,” said a woman following closely behind the paramedics with the girl. “I’m here, my daughter.”

What exact injury the girl suffered, her condition and how her hand wound up trapped were unclear.

Morgenstern reminded parents who go shopping with children to keep their hands away from escalator handrails, and to make sure their shoelaces are tied.

OnScene TV, a news outlet that often works with the Southern California News Group, contributed to this report.

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