San Francisco, CA Golden Gate Bridge Construction Accident Kills Ten, Feb 1937

The second tragedy [on the Golden Gate Bridge], which shocked San Francisco and the nation, came February 17, 1937. Fifteen men were working on a travelling scaffold underneath the bridge and above the [safety] net. The hooks which held the scaffold to the under structure of the bridge snapped and the two-ton platform was dropped into the net.


The safety net was designed to stop the fall of human bodies, but not two-ton pieces of machinery. Slowly it gave way, and from it spilled the bodies of 13 men. Two workers, more agile, quick-thinking or lucky [sic] than their mates, had leaped to grasp the solid structure of the bridge and had been pulled to safety by their companions above.

Ten men fell that dizzy 230 feet to death in the waters below. But the safety net did its best, and saved three others whom it lowered to the water at a slow enough pace so that they escaped the fate of their companions. These were rescued by boats beneath.

Inquiry, investigations and recrimination stormed after this accident. The blame was shifted from one to that one, charges and counter charges were hurled, but nothing could be done to bring back the ten who were killed or comfort those they left behind, and the almost unbelievable safety record of the world's largest suspension bridge was dealt a telling blow.

San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, CA 27 May 1937, article for the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.



Mass of Steel and Timber Plunges 200 Feet, Carrying Workers With It


Two Men Rescued, One Body is Found and Nine Others Are Still Missing

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 17 -- A huge mass of steel and timber fell 200 feet from the Golden Gate bridge into the ocean today, carrying probably 10 men to death in the meshes of a safety net designed to protect their lives.

With a prolonged roar, tons of metal and wood being used as paving framework broke loose from a deck of gigantic $35,000,000 bridge and hurtled at least 13 men to the sea below.

The plummeting tangle of men and materials hit the safety net stretching for more than a mile along the under side of the bridge deck, broke the life web and peeled it off so that it fell into the water like a monster strip of fabric in the unrolling process.

Nearby fishing boats and fast moving coast guardsmen sped to the scene and immediately recovered on body and two living men.

Nine other workers apparently tangled in the wreckage, were given up for dead.

A section of the mass broke loose and drifted toward the open sea with rescue boats in pursuit.
The boats it before it reached the heads of the Golden Gate and began searching for bodies.