Atlanta Airport Responds to Soft Shoe Accidents

August 14, 2008

The hustle of the world’s busiest airport — Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson — is now regularly interrupted by an announcement warning travelers of the dangers of “shoe entrapment” on escalators.

The 35-second public service announcement that airs every five minutes is a response to a recent rash of injuries on escalators at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. At least three children were injured in the last two months when airport escalators gobbled up their flip flops or Crocs, a rubber clog-like shoe, said airport spokesman Hershel Grangent.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented 77 soft shoe entrapments on escalators since January 2006 and issued a warning in May.

Malls, subway stations and airports nationwide began posting signs warning escalator riders after a surge of similar incidents last year. The Atlanta airport, however, has waited until recently to do so.

The Colorado company that makes the soft-soled shoe has said it is working to include warnings in its packaging.

But these changes do little to console Lesley Grinberg, whose son narrowly avoided injury on an Atlanta airport escalator July 30. She and her son were riding up an escalator when his Crocs got caught between the moving stairs and the side.

“All of a sudden, I heard him scream,” Grinberg said. “He said, ‘My foot was in the machine.”‘

Grinberg saved the mangled shoes to warn other parents. Now she wants airport officials to install guards along the sides of escalators to prevent loose articles and soft shoes from getting caught.

Other children haven’t been so lucky.

A 3-year-old girl from Louisville, Ky. wearing Crocs was injured when an escalator ripped skin from her foot and broke three toes in June. Her trip to Disney World was diverted to a hospital. A 7-year-old boy wearing Crocs suffered cuts on his foot July 29 and had to have surgery. A 4-year-old wearing flip flops also was hurt July 31.

One of the injured children has filed a lawsuit against the airport, Grangent said, and the new signs will remain up for now.

Some travelers were heeding the warning.

John Myer, of Lake Oconee, heard the announcement and wheeled his 13-month old daughter to a nearby elevator.

“Escalators just aren’t safe though for her,” said Myer, whose daughter was wearing green Crocs.

But not everyone is taking the stairs or elevator. Ella Embree, of Wasilla, Alaska, was traveling through the Atlanta airport with her three children, all wearing Crocs or flip flops.

“We all wear these because they are comfortable,” Embree said. “We won’t be taking the elevators because they take too long. We just told the kids to stay in the middle of the escalators.”

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