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Famous Failures

Useful information and links

Learning from failure: It is hoped (over a period of time) to build up a useful resource (5.17)

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    Temporary works failure - A forensic history

  • Hebburn-on-Tyne, New Graving Disasters (1902 and 1903)

    1902: Asphyxiation 1903: Caisson Collapse Read More »

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    Quebec Bridge Collapses (1907 and 1916)

    The Quebec Bridge (Pont de Québec in French) is a road, rail and pedestrian bridge across the lower Saint Lawrence River between Sainte-Foy and Lévis, Quebec, Canada. The project failed twice, at the cost of 88 lives, and took over 30 years to complete. The bridge is a riveted steel truss structure and is 3,238 ft. long, 95 ft. wide, and 341 ft. high. Cantilever arms 581 ft. long support a 640 ft. central structure, for a total span of 1,801 ft., still the longest cantilever bridge span in the world. Read More »

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    Birkenhead Dock Disaster (1909)

    The Birkenhead dock disaster was a tragedy that happened when a temporary dam collapsed during construction of the Vittoria Dock in Birkenhead, Wirral Peninsula, England, on 6 March 1909. It left 14 workers (or "navvies") dead and three injured. The disaster led to a huge public outpouring of sympathy and grief in the local area. However, the Government refused to hold a public inquiry and the cause of the disaster was never definitively established. Very little evidence or documentation surrounding the event now exists. Read More »

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    Newport Docks Disaster (1909)

    In 1909, Newport in Monmouthshire – was a thriving merchant town. With a brand new Transporter Bridge, designed to allow access to sailing ships, on their way to the docks. Coal has claimed many lives in pit disasters all over Britain, in this instance the success of the coal industry inadvertently claimed the lives of men who had never entered a mine, they dug earth, not coal. The coal being exported from the valleys of South Wales was a major factor behind the need for a larger dock. On 2nd July 1909 a tragic accident occurred at Newport Docks. Read More »

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    Brent Cross Crane Collapse (1964)

    This tragic accident occurred at 8.30 on Saturday morning near the intersection of Hendon Way (A.41) and the North Circular Road at the site of the Brent Cross fly-over scheme. A Coles mobile crane belonging to the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company Limited, the main contractors to the scheme, was standing between the North Circular Road and the River Brent about 200 ft. southwest of the intersection. It was being used to erect a Scotch derrick for the construction of the 40 ft. high concrete fly-over. The base of the tripod of the derrick, which was about 20 ft. high, had been erected and the crane was being used to assemble the king post of the derrick which stands on top of the tripod. This king post was 50 ft. long and weighed about 7½ tons. Read More »

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    West Gate Bridge (1970)

    Two years into construction of the bridge, at 11.50am on 15th October 1970, the 367.5ft span between Piers 10 and 11 collapsed and fell 164ft to the ground and water below. Thirty-five construction workers were killed and 18 injured; Australia's worst industrial accident. Read More »

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    Loddon Bridge Collapse (1972)

    The M4 bridge over the Reading Road at Winnersh was completed in late 1970, while the embankment either side took shape. What was then known as the Loddon Bridge Interchange was under construction during 1972, but tragedy struck in October that year. Read More »

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    Skyline Plaza Apartment Building Collapse (1973)

    On 2nd March 1973, the Skyline Plaza apartment building in Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia collapsed while under construction. The collapse extended vertically through the building, from the24th floor to the ground, leaving an appearance of the structure as two different high-rise buildings with a gap between them. The collapse tore a 18-m (60-ft) wide gap through the building all the way to the ground. At the time of the collapse, two practically identical RC towers had already been built. The collapse occurred at about 2.30 pm. The American Concrete Institute's (ACI) Formwork for Concrete cites this case as a “tragic example of too-early shore removal.” Read More »

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    Collapse of NATM tunnels at Heathrow Airport (1994)

    One of the worst civil engineering disasters in the United Kingdom in the last quarter of a century occurred during the night of 20-21 October 1994 when tunnels in the course of construction beneath Heathrow Airport's Central Terminal Area (CTA) collapsed. Read More »