Reprinted from the Hastings Daily Tribune, January 1940
Human Interest – Dam Worker Lives to Tell of Being Swept Through Trico Dam Drain Pipe
Human interest stories are sprinkled through the many years of Tri-County promotion.
Human interest stories have also cropped up at frequent intervals during the huge construction program. There has been humor and tragedy.
Best story of recent months coming from the far-flung construction front could have been tragic. It wasn’t, and its very hair-raising details would make it subject matter for the writers of those stories which keep you holding your breath but always turn out all right in the end.
Here are the details:
Robert McCoy, 26, on December 6, 1939, was employed by the contractors building the huge earth fill at Kingsley Dam. He and a companion were on a boat tending the openings from which water drains from what is known as the “core pool,” the body of water visible in the central picture on the front of this section of the Tapeline (see photo below).
The core pool is formed by the clay and water pumped from the hills south of the dam. The water brings the clay, the clay settles to form the impervious core of the dam. The core is built up by the dredging of loess soil from the hard ground south of the river, while the bulk of the dam is given form by the piling up of sand dredged from the river bed.
Look at the panoramic view of the incompleted dam. You will see a small speck near the center of the view, to the left of the long line which is the pipe carrying clay from the hillside to the core pool. That speck is the opening of a 24-inch pipe, one of several. (The “speck” is not visible in the accompanying photo, which is not the same one published in the Hastings Daily Tribune.) This pipe and its companions serve to drain water from the core pool after the silt has settled to its permanent place in the huge fill.
Getting back to McCoy. He fell off his boat and was caught in the rush of water into the pipe. He went in feet first, dropped about 300 feet, made the right angle turn at an elbow and was bumped along for some 500 feet through the 24-inch corrugated pipe to the outlet at the upstream toe of the dam.
His companion was helpless. When McCoy disappeared, the only thought of the man left on the boat was how to get the body out of the pipe. It would be lodged in the elbow, he assumed.
This second man hurried to a nearby shack to report to fellow workers. He had barely explained the situation when up from the toe of the dam came McCoy. He entered the shack and collapsed.
Considerable muddy water was pumped from his lungs. He was ill for a few days and his face was mighty sore from being knocked against the corrugated pipe. Otherwise, there is nothing else to the story, as it is told by the Tri-County workmen who have looked over the scene and are still wondering how McCoy lived to tell about it.
The story has served to clarify for more than one person – this writer for example – the significance of the core pool in the dam project.