Lambert Investigates Failure of Generators after Storm

Lambert Field officials are investigating whether negligence led to the failure of three backup generators that left most of the airport's Main Terminal in darkness for four to five hours after the storm July 19.

A "load test," which simulates a full load on the generators, hadn't been conducted since 2003, Gerard Slay, deputy airport director, said Wednesday.

Airport generators received monthly inspections June 30, airport Director Kevin Dolliole said, but those tests failed to show that one had a pinhole leak in the radiator hose and was low on water and coolant.

"What I can't say with certainty yet, until all the logs are reviewed, is how (the generators) were maintained over time," Dolliole said.

As hurricane-force winds rocked the St. Louis area the night of the storm, Lambert was among the hundreds of thousands of electric customers that lost power. Three of the eight generators that provide backup electricity to the terminal and parking facilities failed.

As a result, lights went out in some concourses, restrooms and the Main Terminal parking garage. The inbound baggage system stopped. The public paging system and security checkpoints were out of service.

Airport police officers roamed the building with flashlights. Between 1,500 and 2,000 people were in the airport at the time.

Until now, airport staff inspected and tested the generators. Dolliole said outside contractors now are doing the work.

Slay oversees the staff who maintained the generators. Slay is Mayor Francis Slay's brother. He began working at the airport years before his brother became mayor.

If negligence is found, even Slay wouldn't be immune to disciplinary action, Dolliole said.

"If there's an individual that comes up who is culpable with some certainty we'll take necessary actions," Dolliole said.

Repairs have been made to the faulty generators. For a brief period during the July 21 storm, power at the airport went out, and the generators worked.

Airport officials are still assessing storm damage, which includes the roof over Concourse D. The damage is estimated at $700,000 so far.

News stories provided by third parties are not edited by "Site Publication" staff. For suggestions and comments, please click the Contact link at the bottom of this page.