A family holiday turned into the trip from hell when a young boy came within minutes of having his foot amputated after it got trapped in an escalator.
Euan Hird, six, from Carnforth, was on holiday in South Africa with his mum Nishala, dad Will and sister Zara, when his foot became stuck in the bottom step of an escalator at the Gateway shopping centre in Durban.
His dad Will said: “We went for something to eat and while the ladies finished, myself, my son and daughter, two blokes and their children, rode up the escalator to the games room.
“We were coming down, then there was a shudder and a bang – I thought one of the adults had tripped but the bottom step had collapsed and created a small void which Euan’s foot had got trapped in.
“Someone hit the emergency stop which stopped any further damage to his foot.
“I tried to prise the foot away, then escalator staff, the police, the fire brigade and lift engineers arrived.
“A team of shop fitters came with angle grinders and drills and tried to drill or angle grind the kick plate on the bottom of the escalator.
“They used a blow torch and at midnight, three hours after his foot got trapped, he was freed.
“We were told he was only 15 or 20 minutes away from having his foot amputated to free it. For the entire rescue, Euan was sitting on his nother Nishala’s lap. She had to keep Euan upright and his leg straight to avoid further injuries or his leg from snapping in case of sudden movements.
“Euan was given gas and air for the pain.
“It was then a five minute drive to the Netcare Umhlanga Hospital.
“Euan’s foot had been crushed. He had a hard trainer on which protected the back of his foot but the front had taken all the impact and he had broken every toe.
“He had two operations in South Africa, the first where he had to have his bones reset and was left with an open wound on his foot.
“The second operation closed the wound and he had to have stitches 360 degrees all the way round his foot.”
Will, his daughter Zara and his mother and father-in-law returned home on July 25 and Euan and his mum came home to Windermere Close in Carnforth the following week, August 1.
Will said: “We are liaising with the NHS to get Euan more treatment as we still worried about the colour of his little toe.
“At the moment he is not able to walk and is in a wheelchair. He has to keep his leg elevated and can’t bear any weight on his foot for six to eight weeks.
“Euan is a very mobile, outgoing child and a character. He was a keen swimmer and loved martial arts. He said after the morning it happened, ‘It’s good ‘cos I get an extra week’s holiday but bad ‘cos my foot is sore.’
“He has remained positive through the whole thing. Nishala and I have both gone through the mill and were glad to be reunited at the weekend.
“Our primary concern is getting Euan better. It’s been a traumatic experience.
“He wasn’t messing around, there was an adult in front of him, it was just a freak accident that could have happened to anyone.
“I have spoken to the head teacher at Euan’s school, Wilson Endowed School in Over Kellet, and we will review things closer to the end of the school holidays.
“Euan said to the family, ‘I’ll see you again in two years’ so it won’t stop us going abroad.
“It will make us more mindful of escalators though.”
Euan is continuing to recover at home with Nishala, 32, whose family own Highfield Fisheries in Carnforth, dad Will, 28, who is a retail manager at Booths in Poulton, near Blackpool, and sister Zara, three.
Will said: “We were prepared for the worst and it’s been nothing short of a miracle. He hasn’t lost his foot, but he may lose his little toe.
“We are just thankful.”
The Department of Labour in South Africa, the equivalent of the Health and Safety Executive in England, has launched an investigation into the incident as has the management of Gateway Theatre of Shopping.
On August 1, a man had to have his foot amputated after his leg became trapped in an escalator in a shopping mall in Shanghai.
The previous week, a woman died in a similar incident in Jingzhou, in a department store in the central province of Hubei, when part of the top of an escalator collapsed.
The woman threw her child to safety before she fell to her death.