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Tragedy at the 1926 Rose Parade [updated]

Tragedy at the 1926 Rose Parade [updated]

Jan. 1, 1926: A victim is removed after the collapse of  a Rose Parade grandstand at Colorado Boulevard and Madison Avenue. Eleven people died from injuries sustained in the collapse.

In this 2003 article, Los Angeles Times staff writer Cecilia Rasmussen reported:

Consider the 115-year legacy of the Rose Parade: The New Year’s Day spectacle has endured the Depression, wars, detractors, bomb threats, no queen, no theme — even the rise of the parodic Doo-Dah Parade.

But in 1926, the first time the event was broadcast live by radio, tragedy struck. The day remains the deadliest in Rose Parade history…..

The deadly disaster began with a loud crack, like the sound a snapped tree trunk might make. Then a wooden grandstand at the southeast corner of Colorado Boulevard and Madison Avenue crashed to the ground, taking several hundred people with it.

A survivor, William F. Thompson, described the scene to a reporter afterward:

“I was sitting in Row 19, one from the top,” he said. “The parade was passing. Hook and ladder just went by when there was just a slight trembling, and then slowly the whole stand moved forward. I heard boards splintering, women crying and then everything tumbled down.

“Something hit me on the head,” Thompson added. “I was dazed but not clear out. I could see faces of agony all around me. Then I remember someone pulled a board off me, and several men came and dragged me out.

“The last thing I saw as boards and other people fell on me was the arms of a man holding a child over his head,” he said. “This man was partly buried by timbers, but the little girl was safe.”…

Eleven people died of their injuries — some within hours, others within days or months. More than 200 were injured.

Followup investigations determined the grandstands were poorly constructed.  Building contractor Paul F. Mahoney was convicted of manslaughter.  Mahoney served one year in jail, then was released following successful appeals.

Because of the 1926 incident, strict construction rules are now enforced at all Tournament of Roses activities.

The top photo was not published in the Times after the collapse. The two images below were published in the Times on Jan. 2, 1926.

Jan. 1, 1926: Spectators gather at the scene of the collapsed grandstands, top of image, at the 1926 Rose Parade.  Credit: Los Angeles Times

Jan. 1, 1926: An injured woman is carried away after the grandstand collapse at the 1926 Rose Parade. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Jan. 1, 1926: Injured woman is transported from the scene of collapsed grandstand at Tournament of Roses Parade site. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photography Archive/UCLA

Jan. 1, 1926: Woman injured in collapse of grandstand at the Tournament of Roses Parade receives first aid. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photography Archive/UCLA

[This post was updated on Dec. 19, 2013 with two additional photos from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA.]

1 Comment

  1. February 2, 2012, 9:44 pm

    (Naval Commander) Clement C. Troensegaard was the Doctor who oversaw and took charge of this terrible disaster. He set-up triage and treated as many as possible, while sending scores of wounded to other locations. He worked out of the “Pasadena Emergency Hospital”—which is now the site of the newly-renovated Huntington Hospital. Dr. Troensegaard’s efforts gained him considerable notoriety from the city of Pasadena, as well as the thankful admiration of its residents.

    By: yof4@yahoo.com

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