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UPDATE: Water agency honors 17 killed in 1971 tunnel blast

2 Saugus residents among the victims

Posted: June 24, 2013 1:45 p.m.
Updated: June 24, 2013 4:35 p.m.
 

Some 42 years after the explosion that claimed their lives, 17 men — including two Saugus residents — will be honored by the Metropolitan Water District in an event to mark the worst tunnel explosion in state history.

The men were killed in a methane gas explosion while they were building a water tunnel in Sylmar on June 24, 1971.

The methane may have collected in the tunnel due to the Sylmar earthquake in February, some experts said.

Two of those who perished in the event were Santa Clarita Valley residents. Danny Blaylock and William J. Snodgrass, both 31, lived in Saugus and were among those killed.

A June 25, 1971, issue of The Signal reported that Paul Badgely, a co-worker to the trapped miners, was knocked unconscious from the blast a mile away.

“The first time I went in there I could hear guys hollering for help,” Badgely told The Signal in 1971, describing his attempts to contact those trapped.

“The second time I could still hear them. The third, and fourth times I couldn’t hear them. It’s a hell of a feeling not being able to help them when you hear them hollering.”

The MWD has announced it will honor the victims, though the exact date for the ceremony has not been set.
Ralph Brissette was the lone survivor of the crew working at the tunnel face.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over it,” said Brissette, 75, of Culver City. “It’s been on my mind for 40 years. I’ve asked myself all through the years: Why did I survive? It’s a question I’ll never be able to answer.”

The contractor, Lockheed Shipbuilding & Construction, was found criminally negligent because its inspectors knew about the high gas level in the tunnel but didn’t halt work.

The company paid nearly $9.5 million in fines and civil judgments. The disaster also led California to adopt the toughest mining and tunnel regulations in the nation.

 

 

 

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