All Posts

Posted in Personal Injury on August 26, 2015   |  by Gary Burger

Gateway Arch Tram Crushes Repairman

This article originally appeared in our July 2015 issue of Justice Matters

Gary Represented John After Being Pinned By A Gateway Arch Tram

Gary represented John Leslie, an employee of the National Park Service (NPS) at the Gateway Arch. Leslie, a brilliant self-taught electrician and repairman, specialized in repairing and maintaining the Gateway Arch tram system. As most St. Louisians and many tourists from around the world have experienced, the tram is a unique creation designed specifically for the Arch. Like a train following tracks, the tram carries up to 6400 people each day up and down the Arch, adjusting its horizontal and vertical position as it climbs. Prior to his career with NPS, John was an electrician at Daimler Chrysler. He enjoyed learning about the Arch’s unique system and became the “go-to guy” when the tram needed repairs.

On February 9, 2011, Guarantee Electric employees were replacing the sensors that helped stop the tram at the top of the Arch. One of the electric relay switches malfunctioned and Leslie went down to the machine shop to get a replacement. On his return ascent, Leslie rode on the outside of the tram on a cow-catcher fastened to the lead car (as all NPS employees are trained to do). Riding this way enables workers to monitor tram operation and exit the tram when a tram operator is not present. However, when the tram approached the south apex, it didn’t stop and proceeded into the bulkhead at the end of the train. The train and the metal wall pinned and crushed John. His co-workers and rescue personnel pulled him out and brought him down from the top of the Arch. He suffered a fractured sternum and multiple broken ribs. Several media outlets reported the story.

The good news is Leslie is now healthy, working another job and has not dwelled on his ordeal. He recovered benefits from his employer and we pursued a civil claim against Guarantee. We filed suit, litigated and took many depositions in the case, learning a great deal about Arch tram operations in the process. Defendants removed the case from St. Louis City Court to Federal Court as the incident occurred on federal land. Did you know if a case arises on exclusively federal land then a federal court has original jurisdiction? However, because the Arch grounds are not exclusively federal land (like the Mark Twain National Forest), we successfully remanded the case back to state court. When Missouri gave the Jefferson National Expansion Historic Site to the federal government, the state retained “concurrent jurisdiction, both civil and criminal” over the site. R.S.Mo. § 12.027.1(2). All the parties involved were happy to settle this case, and Leslie recovered $125,000.00 for his injuries.

As the tram moves, it hits switches near the top and bottom causing it to slow down and stop automatically. The timing of when those switches are thrown informs the operator of the speed of the tram and how quickly it should slow. The tram is operated by one worker at either the bottom of the Arch, but a whole team of smart, diligent workers like John Leslie keeps the Arch and its tram system running safely.