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Memorial for deadliest disaster in Ventura County history gets closer to reality

dam disaster.jpg
The St Francis Dam collapsed in 1928, resulting in a flood which swept through Ventura County and killed at least 431 people

It’s one of the worst disasters in Californian history, and it hit Ventura County - but many people don’t know about it.

Now, plans for a memorial for the over 400 people killed in the St Francis Dam collapse, 93 years ago, are being finalized.

Just before midnight on March 12th 1928. The St Francis Dam – designed and built by William Mulholland – catastrophically failed.

The resulting flood, which swept through Ventura County and out to the ocean, killed at least 431 people.

It’s considered to be on the worst American civil engineering disasters of the 20th century and is the second-greatest loss of life in California’s history.

It also ended the career of Mulholland – who built the Los Angeles Aquaduct and is credited for bringing water to Los Angeles.

And it’s been largely forgotten for 93 years, with many of us unaware of the disaster. The St Francis Dam Memorial Foundation has been aiming to change that for years, but finally efforts for a memorial are closer to a reality.

On Wednesday, a shortlist of three options for the memorial will be chosen.

Dianne Hellrigel is the executive director of the Foundation.

"I'm so excited because we will move forward and then in March 2022 we will travel to D.C. and meet with the US DA secretary and he will choose his favorite," she told KCLU.

Hellrigel said it’s important to remember the human cost of the disaster.

"It broke at two and half minutes before midnight, so people in the flood plain were sleeping. They had no idea that this was coming. They had no chance.

"Almost everyone in the flood plain died. It's been covered up and had no recognition.

"It's so important to honor these people that died," she told KCLU.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for ten years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.