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A witness of Thursday’s horrific accident at a Beijing Subway station that killed a woman passenger said the train started moving just five seconds after she became trapped between the train door and the platform edge door.

Liu Jun, who was waiting for a train at the door next to the victim, told the South China Morning Post that passengers on the platform tried to alert the driver by pounding on the platform doors, but to no avail.

Pan Xiaomei, 33, was killed after she became trapped in between the two sets of doors and was dragged down on to the tracks. The tragedy unfolded when she tried to board the train at Huixinxijie Nankou station on Line 5 just before 7 pm on Thursday, according to mainland media.

According to a report by news website, a subway worker said there are sensors installed on both the train doors and the platform doors. But the sensors will only stop the doors from closing when people are stuck in the doors, not in the gap between the two doors.

“[They] should install sensors in between the train doors and the platform doors,” the worker was quoted as saying.

Liu, the witness, added: “The station was very crowded at that time. It was the rush hour, and the station is an interchange stop between Line 5 and Line 10. There were several dozen people waiting outside each door.”

Liu said because of the crowds, he did not notice what happened until people on the platform started to hit the platform doors, desperately trying to draw the attention of the driver and stop the train from moving off.

However, the attempt to raise the alarm failed and the train started moving just five seconds after Pan got stuck, Liu said.

“I heard seven or eight very loud sounds when she was dragged down by the train, and I could no longer see her. People [on the platform] were all scared and they all ran to the side. Many, including me, could not bear to look at it,” he said.

Liu recalled that there were no subway staff on the platform at the time of the accident. “It’s very strange. Usually there are always people on the platform to maintain order, but there was no one yesterday.”

About seven subway staff and two policemen hurried to the scene about five minutes later and sealed off the site, Liu said.

Beijing Subway and the transport authorities could not be reached for comment despite repeated calls from the Post.

Pan was rushed to the China-Japan Friendship Hospital. A post on the hospital’s official Weibo account said Pan was not breathing and had no pulse when she was brought to the hospital.

A doctor told the Beijing News she had suffered bruises and multiple bone fractures.

“[Her] chest was totally soft, it must have been crushed,” the doctor was quoted as saying.

The accident happened on the second day of Apec meetings in the capital. The city’s municipal government has banned cars from the roads on alternate says to ease congestion and reduce pollution during the summit – measures which the capital’s transport authorities have estimated would lead to an extra one million extra passengers on the subway every day, reported.

The Post reported on Thursday that some stations in central Beijing were closed periodically to regulate the number of passengers during the rush hour.

A similar accident took place in Shanghai seven years ago. In July 2007, a man who tried to force himself into a crowded train got stuck between the train door and platform edge door. He died after being dragged down to the track by the train.