How Many People Died Building Hoover Dam?

February 16, 2024

Over 100 people died building hoover damn, and there are legends that some of those bodies are still trapped within the dam’s concrete. But is there any truth to these rumors?

One of the biggest construction projects in modern times, the Hoover Dam—then known as the Boulder Dam—was a symbol of what American workers could achieve even during the Great Depression. The dam’s supporters hoped it would protect against floods and droughts in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada, provide electricity to nearby cities, and supply water for the region’s growing populations.

But the dam was also a dangerous place to work. In the five years it took to build, 96 workers were killed in construction-related accidents. Some of those deaths were the result of a serious fall or an accident with machinery, but many were due to illnesses like pneumonia. Claiming pneumonia allowed Six Companies, the body governing the construction project, to exploit a loophole in the law and deny death benefits to families of deceased workers.

But even if a worker did fall into the concrete during construction, there’s no way they would have stayed trapped inside for long. Depending on the size of the block being poured, the concrete level rose only two to six inches after each pour. This was enough to pull a worker out before the concrete hardened. The concrete blocks used for the dam were shaped into trapezoidal sections, which sped up the cooling process by about a third.


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