How Many People Died Building Hoover Dam?

March 11, 2024

In the 1930s, construction on Hoover Dam took place. It was one of the biggest projects of its time and over 100 people died during its creation. Some of these deaths were from accidents, but rumors also surfaced that some workers fell into the concrete while it was being poured and got entombed inside.

Over the years, this myth became a widespread belief in southern Nevada and many people still believe it today. But is it true?

The first death associated with the dam came in 1922 when Bureau of Reclamation surveyors J.G. Tierney and Harold Connelly fell from a barge while conducting geological surveys in the Colorado River. Thirteen years later, Tierney’s son Patrick would fall from a tower on the Arizona side of the dam and died. Those were the only two official “industrial fatalities” from the physical site of the dam.

The dam’s builders didn’t allow anyone to slip into the concrete as it was being poured and they also removed bodies as soon as possible after accidents occurred on the job. They had to, because they could not afford to wait for the concrete to harden and any body would pose an architectural threat (because bones break down over time, causing air pockets that can cause cracks in a structure) as well as a health risk to other workers. The concrete for the dam was poured in trapezoidal blocks, so it was much easier to remove any workers that managed to slip into the mix than if they had been poured in a continuous mass.

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