Pregnant woman’s death spurs a safety debate about China’s street fences

A pregnant woman in northern China died this week after she fell unconscious on a busy city street and got her head stuck in a fence, Chinese media reported on Wednesday.

The incident, which occurred Monday, has sparked a debate in China about the safety of the white, round-topped fences that line many of the country’s city streets as a deterrent against jaywalking and driving in the wrong lanes. It marks the third time since 2010 that a person has died after getting wedged between their rails.

Videos online show the young woman with her head wedged in a chest-high fence on a street in Yulin, a city in northern China’s Shaanxi province. She wore a black Mickey Mouse sweater and black pants. Her right knee was also squeezed into the fence, and her left knee rested on the ground behind her. A small black handbag lay on the road.

“She seemed to feel dizzy, and intended to lean against the railing to take a rest, but then fainted and her head slipped into the rails,” the state broadcaster CCTV quoted an unnamed bystander as saying.

A small crowd gathered around her, and eventually, a handful of onlookers attempted to pull the fence apart, but failed to extricate her. The woman was soon pulled free by emergency responders, according to CCTV.


“Officials said they couldn’t yet decide why the woman fainted suddenly, which led to her getting stuck and suffocating, but she could have suffered from a heatstroke or hypertension,” CCTV reported.

The woman died soon after entering the hospital, the Beijing News reported, citing an unnamed source at the local Mizhi County Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

She had just dropped off her 11-year-old daughter at school, according to Huashang News, a local newspaper.

“Heartbreaking!” wrote a user of China’s popular Sina Weibo microblog with the username There is No Real Me. “The design of the fences should be reevaluated. The gap between the fences should either be broadened or removed. This case is not the only one in China in recent years!”

In October 2013, a 26-year-old woman began to faint while walking on a Beijing street, lurched towards the fence, and fell so that her neck lodged between its rails. The police arrived 20 minutes later and found her foaming at the mouth. She later died in the hospital.

In 2010 in Nantong, a city in southeastern China’s Jiangsu province, an elderly woman was found stuck in a fence near a supermarket; by the time an ambulance arrived, she had died.

“Compared with the unconcerned behavior of the onlookers, wouldn’t it be more meaningful for us to talk about the country’s infrastructure?” wrote another Weibo user, Alax_xin25. “If there were resting places by the roadsides, how could this tragedy have even occurred?”

Yingzhi Yang in The Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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