Power Outage Traps Visitors at Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch Tram Car

SLToday: One person was hurt and 40 were trapped Thursday during a power outage that stalled a Gateway Arch tram for nearly an hour, authorities said. Shortly after the trapped visitors got out of the Arch, a worker there was hurt in what officials said was an unrelated incident.

The tram in which the visitors were trapped was climbing the north leg about 2:15 p.m. when it lost power and stalled about 200 feet short of the top, said Ann Honious, deputy superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. After about an hour, the U.S. Park Service was able to slowly pull the tram to the observation deck manually. Visitors were then transferred to the south leg tram to return to the ground. Workers were trying to determine what caused the outgage late Thursday.

"There was a lot of panicking," said Jody Waller, 54, of Wildwood, who was visiting the Arch with three nieces and three great nieces, some from out of town.

The outage killed the lights and air conditioning and kept the tram car doors closed, Waller said. Park service employees made several announcements over a public address system, apologizing for the delay and inconvenience.

"After about the third time, it was like, 'We got to get some help up here,'" Waller said. "It was very scary."

The only person injured in the incident was a woman in her late teens who was checked by paramedics for a minor injury, St. Louis Fire Capt. Dan Sutter said. After visitors got out of the Arch, a National Park Service employee whose head was wrapped and braced was loaded into an ambulance from the Arch grounds and taken to a hospital for treatment.

Honious said he was injured in the south tram while performing regular duties unrelated to the outage. But neither Honious nor Sutter would say how he was hurt, citing health privacy laws. Sutter described his injuries as minor. The south tram was put into regular use to ferry visitors to the top of the Arch around 5:30 p.m. Officials say the Arch will be open regular hours today, with that tram in use.

Thursday's incidents and other recent mechanical problems at the Arch should not suggest the monument is unsafe, Honious said. In one such instance, in 2007, a cable snap put the south tram out of commission for weeks.

"It's a unique mechanical system," she said. "Because it's the Arch and the impact of it, you hear about (malfunctions) more."


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