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Two injured as Arch tram stalls with 40 on board


ST. LOUIS • The tram in the north leg of the Gateway Arch stalled after an electrical outage about 2:15 p.m today, stranding about 40 visitors for nearly an hour.

The tram was heading up the north leg after 2 p.m. when it lost power, stalling the tram about 200 feet short of the top of the Arch, according to Ann Honious, deputy superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

After about an hour, the U.S. Park Service was able to pull the tram to the observation deck manually. Visitors were then able to take the tram in the south leg to get back down to ground level.

"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 lights were out with the tram car doors shut and the air conditioning off during the outage, 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 gotta get some help up here,'" Waller said. "It was very scary."

Workers also brought water to tram riders to keep them cool.

"They were very nice," Waller said.

After reaching the top, Waller and relatives said they didn't stick around long.

"We all wanted to get the hell off of it," said Waller's niece, Casey Connella, 29, who was visiting from Georgia.

Waller said she and her family were nervous about having to take the south tram down.

"The last thing I wanted to do was get on a tram," she said.

A U.S. Park Service employee was taken from the Arch grounds in an ambulance; he was injured in the south tram performing his regular duties but Honious and Capt. Dan Sutter would not say how he was hurt. Authorities said his injuries were minor. A woman in her late teens also received a minor injury.

The north leg tram was the only one operating at the time of the incident, and all eight cars were full with five people per car, Honious said. The Arch was only running one of the trams because only one was needed for Thursday's volume of visitors.

About 120 people were in the Arch's observation deck when the north leg tram lost power, Honious said. The south tram began taking visitors from the deck down within 20 minutes of the power outage.

The cause of the outage was unknown late Thursday, Honious said. The park service is working to repair the north tram and running routine tests on the south tram in order to run it for visitors until the monument's 10 p.m. closing time.

The Arch has had other recent mechanical problems as well though Honious said they don't mean the Arch is unsafe.

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

In February, an Arch employee was performing maintenance on the tram when he was pinned between the moving tram and the internal structure of the Arch. He survived.

In 2007, the tram in the south leg of the Arch was put out of commission for weeks after a cable snapped, fell, and damaged electrical equipment. A resulting power outage briefly trapped about 200 people in the trams and at the observation deck at the top of the Arch.

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