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Originally published August 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Seattle Monorail stalls; passengers evacuated

The Seattle Monorail stalled this afternoon above 5th Avenue between Lenora and Blanchard streets. As of 5:20 p.m., Seattle firefighters had evacuated...

The Seattle Monorail stalled this afternoon above 5th Avenue between Lenora and Blanchard streets.

As of 5:20 p.m., Seattle firefighters had evacuated all passengers from the Westlake Center-bound red train.

No one was injured. The stall was reported just after 4 p.m.

Monorail officials Saturday night said the problem was a leaking air valve, which helps power the doors and the brakes. The valve was replaced, and officials plan to return it to service at 9 a.m. Sunday. Check www.seattlemonorail.com for updates.

On Saturday, firefighters took the estimated 200 passengers down truck ladders one and two at a time. Seattle Deputy Fire Chief Steve Oleson said the train, the only one in service on Saturday, appeared to lose power and slow to a stop. The tracks are 33 feet tall.

Firefighters opened two doors in the stalled train to let air into the cars and brought up bottled water and fans to passengers.

At 4:45 p.m., about 40 minutes after firefighters were dispatched, the Monorail's blue train pulled alongside the red train to take passengers away via short ramp between the two trains. Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Dana Vander Houwen said the blue train can only accommodate 20 passengers at a time.

The red train was out of service due to an electrical problem from Aug. 4-10.

One passenger who climbed down the fire-truck ladder Saturday was Carol Gustafson, of Wilmot, S.D., who's visiting Seattle with family.

"It 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 that a firefighter was descending below her.

"I was relieved to not go up the Space Needle because I'm afraid of heights," she said, adding, "It's a beautiful city and in spite of this I'll be back."

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Once on the ground, passengers said firefighters were trying to rescue those who were overheated.

Dora Dietrich of Fullerton, Calif., was the first. She said she felt hot and sick.

"Everyone said, 'Let her go, let her go,' and I was embarrassed because I'm not that type of person."

Traveling with Dietrich was Yvette Morrison of San Dimas, Calif. A paramedic by trade, Morrison said the rescue took too long. Monorail staff appeared to wait 15 or 20 minutes, she said, before calling 911.

The blue train is undergoing tests, after a rebuild of its drive system and other components. Monorail officials say it should be running again by Labor Day, after which the red train will be overhauled.

The monorail has had more than its share of problems.

On Thanksgiving weekend 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.

Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Seattle Times staff reporters Stuart Eskenazi and Benjamin J. Romano contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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