Tourists return to top of Arch, after Saturday power failure

Sunday, July 22, 2007 | 2:31 p.m. CDT; updated 9:43 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Tourists could travel to the top of the Gateway Arch on Sunday, after a power outage Saturday night trapped roughly 200 people inside the landmark for up to three hours.

One of two trams that take visitors to the top of the Arch remained out of service Sunday. That allowed just 40 visitors, rather than the standard 80, to go to the top at a time.

The Arch's deputy superintendent, Frank Mares, said it appeared one of nine cables pulling the south tram failed Saturday after it came in contact with an electrified rail, causing the system to blow a fuse.

Mares says the power failure happened around 8:45 p.m. when about 40 people were in each tram, another 100 at the top of the Arch and others in loading zones. The St. Louis Fire Department said at least two people needed medical attention, but no one was seriously hurt.

Visitors at the top of the Arch had to wait about three hours to get down, Mares said. He said those inside the tram cars waited about two hours, but were probably the most uncomfortable without air conditioning.

Some people were taken down staircases to a service elevator, but most waited for a tram to begin running again. Fire and Arch officials talked to people in each leg of the monument while they were stuck.

"There was never any danger, just a lot of inconvenience," Mares said.

Eli Lawson of Claremore, Okla., was at the top of the Arch with family and friends when the power went out.

"Some people went into panic mode. For the most part, people remained calm," he said Sunday afternoon. He said emergency lighting was minimal but the observation area remained cool, and a park ranger did an excellent job keeping the public informed.

A few people were crying, but that most children, like his own, fell asleep, he said. When visitors returned to the base of the Arch, they received refreshments and refunds, he said.

The power outage happened while thousands were attending a free concert and fireworks display on the Arch grounds, part of the Live on the Levee summer concert series, which is set on a stage across from the Arch overlooking the Mississippi River.

Run by the National Park Service, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial commemorates the 19th-century migration of hundreds of thousands of people to the West when St. Louis was the last major city before the frontier.

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