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Escalators shut down after 23 injured at Coors

The Rockies shut down all the escalators at Coors Field on Thursday, one of the busiest days of the season, while engineers tried to find what caused one of the moving staircases to hurl dozens of terrified fans on top of each other.

Rockies spokesman Jay Alves said 23 people were treated and released from area hospitals. Nine remained hospitalized, none were critically injured but their conditions were not released.

The team went forward with Thursday's game against Arizona and another fireworks show, typically a big draw.

On Wednesday, there was a near-capacity crowd of 47,032, the largest since opening day.

"We felt like we were going to die and it was primarily from being crushed," said Greg Strayer, who was on the three-story-tall escalator when it suddenly sped up after Wednesday night's game and fireworks show.

Strayer's wife and 16-year-old daughter had broken ankles and deep cuts; both had surgery and could face more.

"I just thank God we're alive," said Strayer, who was bruised from his fall. "I don't think the anger has set in yet."

Witnesses and victims said the escalator suddenly accelerated and people lost their balance and toppled forward.

"People were just sliding down like an avalanche," witness Nick Nossinger said.

The Rockies also disclosed that 12 people were injured when another escalator at the stadium abruptly stopped May 24. Alves said people had minor injuries, including cuts and bruises.

The cause of both escalator problems remained unknown Thursday.

City inspectors and representatives of Kone Corp. were examining all the escalators. Kone, a global company with its U.S. headquarters in Moline, Ill., said it acquired the company that built the escalators.

Chuck Moore, a senior vice president with Kone, said the company was trying to determine what happened. "Once we do know, we will comment," he said.

Kone also services an escalator at the Dallas Convention Center that suddenly accelerated last week, thrusting a number of riders into a pile at the bottom but causing no significant injuries, KDFW-TV in Dallas reported.

ASTROS: Left-hander Mike Venafro, who was released by the Rays, signed a minor-league contract and will be assigned to Triple-A New Orleans.

EXPOS: Reliever Dan Smith was placed on the 15-day DL with an inflamed rotator cuff. The right-hander, who is 2-2 with a 5.26 ERA in 32 games, will be replaced by Bryan Hebson, the team's first-round draft pick in 1997.

ORIOLES: Left-hander Omar Daal was placed on the 15-day DL, and Rick Bauer was recalled from Triple-A Ottawa to fill the void in the bullpen. Daal complained of soreness in his left shoulder, and an MRI revealed tendinitis in his rotator cuff.

ROYALS: All-Star first baseman Mike Sweeney had a setback in his battle to overcome a back injury. Trainer Nick Swartz said that Sweeney experienced a shooting pain when he got out of bed Thursday morning and will consult a specialist. "It's definitely a serious setback," Swartz said. Sweeney, a three-time All-Star, was among the league leaders with a .321 average and 50 RBIs when he went out 15 games ago.

The team also made eight roster moves, including putting pitcher Kyle Snyder on the 15-day DL with a strained right shoulder and sending former Devil Rays second baseman Brent Abernathy to Triple-A Omaha.

YANKEES: Centerfielder Bernie Williams hopes to return next week from an injured left knee that has sidelined him for six weeks.

"In my mind, there is a big possibility of that happening," Williams said after his final workout at the Yankees' complex in Tampa.

Williams, who had surgery May 27, will start a rehabilitation assignment today at Double-A Trenton.

_ TIMES WIRES

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