Fox newsreel footage shows men searching for — and finding — bodies in the aftermath of the St. Francis Dam collapse. Filmed on March 17, 1928.
Description: Night scenes of the wreckage after fatal collapse of the St. Francis Dam, which killed many people. Search part is looking for victims. Tractor rides over fallen trees and group of men work with flares for light. Men carry dead bodies away. Men sit by a fire with food and drink. Scenes of houses and area ruined by the flood.
This film print was donated by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation to the University of South Carolina. Used by permission.
Construction on the 600-foot-long, 185-foot-high St. Francis Dam started in August 1924. With a 12.5-billion-gallon capacity, the reservoir began to fill with water on March 1, 1926. It was completed two months later.
At 11:57:30 p.m. on March 12, 1928, the dam failed, sending a 180-foot-high wall of water crashing down San Francisquito Canyon. An estimated 431 people lay dead by the time the floodwaters reached the Pacific Ocean south of Ventura 5½ hours later.
It was the second-worst disaster in California history, after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, in terms of lives lost — and America's worst civil engineering failure of the 20th Century.