How Many People Died Building the Hoover Dam?

February 25, 2024

During the five years it took to build the Hoover Dam, a number of men lost their lives. But despite what some people believe, no one was actually buried in the concrete that makes up the behemoth.

The Dam was designed to do something that seemed impossible at the time: stop the mighty Colorado River dead in its tracks. The river was a huge resource in America's bone-dry west. A dam could help tame the river, create a water reservoir, and generate electricity for Las Vegas.

But the work was not without its challenges. Workers died from construction accidents, explosions on the job, falls from canyon walls, and even heat exhaustion. The official death toll from "industrial deaths" on the Dam project clocked in at around 96. That figure doesn't include the first two fatalities on the project: Bureau of Reclamation surveyors J. G. Tierney and Harold Connelly, who drowned in the Colorado River in 1922 while conducting a geological survey.

There were other incidents where people could have been buried in the concrete, but the fact is that the concrete was constantly being poured and had to set before the next layer of concrete could be poured. It would have taken more than a century for the concrete to cool down enough to bury someone inside. But engineers were able to speed up the cooling process by using an incredibly large refrigeration system that produced thousands of tons of ice each day.

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