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Girl's foot is mangled on escalator at Burdines

An escalator ride for 5-year-old Marissa Davis turned into a nightmare Sunday afternoon.

Her toe got stuck between the side wall and moving stairs of the Burdines escalator at Tyrone Square Mall. Before the ordeal was over, her big toe was dangling by a piece of skin.

A plastic surgeon at Bayfront Medical Center sewed her toe back on her foot Sunday. The prognosis is unclear. Marissa, a budding soccer player and gymnast, could lose some tissue from the toe, but it is too early to tell. She has a doctor's appointment this afternoon.

"Come over here," Marissa said at her St. Petersburg home Monday night, peeling back a bandage covering her right foot. "Ew, blood. I can see it. Yucky. Yucky."

After breakfast at Kissin' Cuzzins on Sunday, Marissa and her 11-year-old brother, Sean, and her parents, Wayne and Kathy Davis, went to the mall to buy plastic drinking glasses. They looked in one store but did not find what they wanted.

So, they rode the escalator to the second floor of Burdines.

Still, they could not find the perfect glasses.

On the way down the escalator, Marissa's mother and brother stood in front. Marissa stood behind them. And Marissa's father stood behind her.

Sean was joking around, jumping up and down between steps, his mother said. "Look, I'm taller; look, I'm shorter," Sean announced. Marissa, her mother said, "was just minding her own business, holding on to the handrail."

Then, about a quarter of the way down, Marissa started screaming.

"Then I saw her shoe go flying off and it was in a couple of pieces," Sean said.

Sean ran to the bottom of the escalator, shouting for help while his panicked parents worked to free Marissa's foot.

"Just seeing that bottom of the escalator and not knowing if it was going to stop _ if it was going to chew her foot off or whatever," said Mrs. Davis, 36.

After what seemed like eternity, Marissa's parents said, an employee pushed the emergency stop. Shoppers rushed to the stairs with any object they could find to dislodge Marissa's twisted foot: screwdrivers, sale signs, a knife sharpener from housewares.

Nothing worked. In fact, the screwdriver snapped. Paramedics arrived a short time later with a crow bar, and within a few minutes, extricated her foot.

"I was afraid my big toe wasn't going to be on my foot," Marissa said Monday night.

She played her first soccer game Saturday and scored a goal for her team, the Nittany Lions. Now, she is in a wheelchair, recovering. The St. Petersburg Christian School kindergartener will be home from school for two weeks, her parents said.

The general manager of Burdines could not be reached for comment late Monday.

In 1963, a 77-year-old St. Petersburg woman caught her shoe heel and hair in the steps of an escalator at Maas Brothers in St. Petersburg. Her head became wedged between two steps of the moving stairs. She died as a result of the injuries.

Marissa's parents want to prevent something like this from happening again. Mrs. Davis already has fired off a letter to Abigail Van Buren's Dear Abby column.

"Please tell your readers, stay away from escalators," Mrs. Davis wrote. "If you must ride the escalator, hold your young children in your arms. Also, stand in the middle of the step."

It was signed, "Taking the Stairs in St. Petersburg, FL."