Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
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Experts have zeroed in on a faulty piece of recently-installed equipment as the likely cause of the 34-minute power outage during the Super Bowl.

According to sources close to the preliminary investigation of the embarrassing blackout, a protective relay within a piece of equipment called a switchgear triggered the outage, which shut down power to half of the stadium shortly after the second half of the game got started.

Officials with Entergy, however, said the investigation by third-party inspectors is not complete and they are not ready to pinpoint the cause.

'We're still doing the investigation,' said Charles Rice, CEO of Entergy New Orleans. 'We don't

have any report.'

SMG, the company that manages the Superdome, said it had no information at all about preliminary findings, declaring that the joint investigation with Entergy hasn't even started.

'We are in the process of hiring our third party investigators in conjunction with Entergy and we'll let that process continue,' SMG spokesman Eric Eagan said. 'We're looking forward to the evaluation beginning and we're eager to get to the bottom of it.'

But according to Eyewitness Investigates sources, experts were on the ground Tuesday and Wednesday checking equipment at the Dome and Entergy facilities.

SMG's electrical systems inside the Dome showed no problems.

That focused attention on the Entergy vault outside the dome. What they found pointed to the relay device, which was installed in January as part of last-minute upgrades to the Dome's electrical system.

The relay, which acts as the brains of the switchgear, apparently signaled a problem, leading circuit-breakers to trip and cut off the electricity.

But a check of feeder lines and other equipment inside and outside the Superdome checked out fine, our sources say, leading experts to hone in on the faulty relay. The relay apparently signaled an abnormality such as a power surge or damaged line even though it appears there was no problem.

The relay and switchgear were supplied by a Chicago company, S & C Electric, a global provider of electrical equipment . The equipment was installed in December, and is unrelated to the replacement of decayed feeder lines, a job that was completed around the same time.

Calls to S & C Electric were not returned.

Despite the power failure, the Superdome and city received strong reviews about their handling of the game, including the power failure.

The event was spared from a more serious disruption because the outage shut down only half of the power to the stadium, and feeder lines were immediately powered up to restore juice to the other half.

The new information obtained by Eyewitness Investigates about the power outage comes on the eve of an emergency meeting of the City Council utility committee, in which officials from Entergy and SMG are expected to be grilled about the outage.

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