10 Most Shocking Construction & Building Blunders
1. Tacoma Bridge
In 1938 construction was started on a twin suspension bridge in Washington State that carried State Route 16 across the Tacoma narrows. Nicknamed “Galloping Gertie” (for reasons you’ll witness in this video), the bridge crumbled on November 7, 1940 – just 4 months after its completion. Despite the engineering failure, no human lives were lost; just one frightened puppy that bit anyone that tried to rescue him.
2. St. Francis Dam
In 1928, literally hours after it passed its final inspection, the St Francis Dam in Southern California busted wide open. It spewed 12.5 billion gallons of water into the Santa Clarita Valley below, leaving Ventura County under 20-70 feet of mud and debris. When all was said and done, the poor construction of that dam was responsible for roughly 450 lost lives.
3. Urban Construction Crane Collapse
In 2008, a construction site oversight was to blame for an NYC neighborhood tragedy. Construction experts recommend using eight reinforcement straps to support such a crane; however, investigators derived that only four worn and fraying safety straps improperly secured the 19-story beast. The result? The straps strained and snapped and the crane came crashing down thus killing 6 construction workers and an innocent female onlooker.
4. Willow Island
On April 27, 1978 a 430-foot cooling tower for a power plant was being constructed on Willow Island in West Virginia when it collapsed and became one of the worst construction accidents in US history. Workers were rushing to make a deadline and therefore made a number of deadly compromises: The concrete laid the day before hadn’t hardened properly in order to support the next day’s weight load. Scaffolding was sloppily constructed and vital bolts weren’t where they should have been and the concrete lift system was modified without proper engineer approval. When the tower collapsed, 51 workers went down with it.
5. Quebec City Bridge
In 1907 Quebec began building one of the largest bridges of its kind that would cross the St. Lawrence River. Although construction had already begun, after some back and forth between collaborating engineers, it was realized that the weight-bearing calculations were off by almost 8 million pounds! Rather than halt construction, they played their odds and allowed construction to continue. The miscalculation manifested itself eventually and 75 workers lost their lives when the bridge shattered and plunged.
6. Chicago Crib
During the construction of a water intake tunnel for the city of Chicago in 1909, all hell broke loose in the form of flames. The dormitory for the tunnel workers caught fire and the results were grim: 60 men were burned to death, 29 workers were burned beyond recognition and the 46 workers that jumped into the lake or took to the ice floes to escape the flames either drowned or fell to hypothermia.
7. Hoover Dam
One of the more notable landmarks in the West is also an infamous construction site that claimed many American lives. Thousands of workers participated in the construction of the Hoover Dam from 1931 to 1936 and in the end the site killed 112 men. Not included in this total is the 42 workers that later died of “pneumonia” (which is thought to be an alleged insurance cover-up for the carbon monoxide poising brought on by gasoline-fueled vehicles in the cramped tunnels).
8. Lake Peigneur
In 1980, on Lake Peigneur in Louisiana, two companies were independently operating; however, through a miscalculation, they found themselves in the same predicament. The Diamond Crystal Salt Company was excavating a salt mine underneath the lakes floor at the same moment that Texaco oil was drilling for petroleum. When Texaco’s drill bit punctured the ceiling of the salt mine, it created a draining vortex like no other and although no human lives were lost (because of well rehearsed evacuation procedures) massive barges were sucked below the lakes surface. Once again, a few dogs didn’t make it out alive. Moral of the story, WATCH WHERE YOU DRILL!!
9. Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway Collapse
In 1981, 2,000 people gathered at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel atrium for a dance contest. Some last second construction audibles left the multiple suspended balconies barely able to support their own weight; however, with the added weight of the crowds, the structures had no chance. Buckling under the weight, the second, third and fourth floors went crashing down onto the lobby floor, killing 114 people and injuring more than 200 others.
10. Crane Collapse
Finally, to end this list and show the absolute importance of construction site safety precautions, here is a rather self-explanatory video that should get us thinking about future safety reform.