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Footage of St. Francis Dam Disaster Found

St. Francis Dam after the 1928 disaster

<![CDATA[Rare footage of the aftermath of the 1928 failure of the St. Francis Dam, a disaster that led to the deaths of more than 430 people in California, has been discovered by the same researcher who collected the names of the victims. The dam, which was located in San Francisquito Canyon around 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles, had originally been constructed as part of the city’s aqueduct structure. However, less than six weeks after the dam had been completed and filled with water, a catastrophic failure caused it to collapse, sending a flood through the valley that took the lives of 431 people. The dam failure is the second-worst disaster in California history, coming in just behind the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906 as the worst loss of life. In 2014 California State University, Northridge graduate student Ann Stansell completed her master’s thesis on the St. Francis Dam disaster. Stansell’s thesis, entitled 'The Forgotten Casualty Project', was a three-year endeavor to document the names of those who had lost their lives in the catastrophe, in order to provide names to the faceless numbers. Now, just a year after her successfully completed thesis, Stansell has discovered archival Fox News footage shot of the aftermath, offering a unique look at the results of the disaster just days after it occurred in April 1928. The footage itself features several well-known local individuals that can be recognized, including Rev. Wolcott H. Evans, one of the first relief workers on the scene. Reverend Evans, a local Presbyterian minister, played a large role in preparing the victims of the flood for burial, aiding in laying them out in the makeshift morgue in the nearby town of Newhall as surviving family members strove to identify the remains of those who had lost their lives in the catastrophe. The footage captures this process, including images of several individuals combing through the deceased for family members. The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society’s former president Leon Worden remarked on the importance of Stansell’s find in an interview appearing in SCVHistory. Worden called the footage “amazing”, especially since the moving images of the aftermath are such a rare find. “We’ve seen a lot of these people in still images, but to see them in action on the morning of the dam disaster literally brings them to life”, Worden stated, adding that “it puts a human face on the tragedy”. The former historical society president also lauded Stansell for her find, which he referred to as highly appropriate when viewed through the lens of her master’s thesis. “The point of her master’s thesis at CSUN was to show that the dam victims were real people, not just statistics,” said Worden, who remarked that “the tragedy of the St. Francis Dam had a huge impact on the residents of communities from Saugus to the sea.” The footage can be watched here ]]>

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