Maybe its because I can’t believe there was actually 200 people on the monorail.
Monorail back in service after stall
About 200 people had to be rescued from the Seattle Center Monorail’s red train Saturday after it stalled midride, forcing some passengers to descend fire-truck ladders from the 33-foot-tall tracks to the street below.
Seattle Times staff reporter
JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES
A monorail passenger is evacuated Saturday near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Lenora Street in downtown Seattle after the monorail stalled.
The Seattle Monorail returned to service Sunday morning after about 200 people had to be rescued from the red train Saturday. The train had stalled midride, forcing some passengers to descend fire-truck ladders from the 33-foot-tall tracks to the street below.
No one was injured, although a few passengers became overheated and nauseated while stuck inside the stuffy train.
Seattle firefighters were dispatched shortly after 4 p.m. to Fifth Avenue between Lenora and Blanchard streets, where the Westlake Center-bound train lost power and then slowed to a halt.
Monorail officials on Saturday night determined the cause was a leaking air valve. They replaced the part, tested the train and planned to return it to full service at 9 a.m. today.
The rescue lasted a little more than an hour. Firefighters opened doors to let in fresh air and took bottled water and fans on board to help passengers cool off.
At about 4:45 p.m., the monorail’s blue train — which has been out of service since January while undergoing a complete refurbishment — pulled alongside the red train to take 20 passengers to Westlake station, loading them across a short ramp laid between the parallel tracks.
The blue train made three additional trips to complete the rescue, carrying a few riders who had been too afraid to descend the ladder. Monorail officials were cautious about taking too many passengers at a time on the blue train because it still is undergoing testing.
Dora Dietrich of Fullerton, Calif., was the first to be rescued by ladder after she began to feel sick and sweat profusely on board.
“Everyone said, ‘Let her go! Let her go!’ and I was embarrassed because I’m not that type of person,” she said.
Tom Albro, director of Seattle Monorail Services, which operates the 1962 World’s Fair-era trains, said the red train was taken out of service for six days earlier this month because of a problem with its electrical system. The train is to undergo a major overhaul in October, just like the blue train is now, as part of a $4.5 million modernization of the two trains.
Albro said the goal is for both the blue and red trains to be operating next weekend when Bumbershoot takes place at Seattle Center.
Check www.seattlemonorail.com for service updates.
Traveling on the monorail with Dietrich was Yvette Morrison of San Dimas, Calif. A paramedic, Morrison said she thought the rescue took too long as monorail staff “lollygagged for 15 or 20 minutes” before calling 911.
But Albro said the operators followed proper procedure.
“Standard operating procedure is to not notify the Fire Department immediately because often times the train is able to regain power and go to the station,” Albro said. “We attempted to do that in this case but when those attempts failed, the Fire Department was notified.”
He said the blue train took a while to come to the rescue because testing equipment — including weights in the form of water-filled beer kegs — had to be removed before it could depart.
Carol Gustafson, of Wilmot, S.D., who was visiting Seattle with family, said the monorail “just kind of stopped. Everybody thought it was a temporary thing. We didn’t realize it would take so long.”
Gustafson said she felt secure going down the ladder, knowing a firefighter was descending just ahead of her.
“I was relieved to not go up the Space Needle because I’m afraid of heights,” she said. “It’s a beautiful city, and in spite of this, I’ll be back.”
The last person down the ladder was 5-year-old Rosie Fast of Covington. She descended with the aid of a harness, a firefighter and her father, Dan.
“She wanted to do the ladder,” her father said, explaining why they didn’t go on the blue train with the last batch of passengers.
But Rosie said: “I got afraid when I got on the ladder because I looked down.”
The vintage monorail has had its share of problems. On Thanksgiving weekend in 2005, two trains sideswiped each other as one departed Westlake Center.
On Memorial Day 2004, a drive shaft on the blue train broke, setting off a chain reaction that sparked a fire. About 150 riders were evacuated and eight people went to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
Seattle Times staff reporter Benjamin J. Romano contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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