Special Report

The Worst Tragedy in Every State

Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

46. Virginia
> Tragedy: Virginia Tech shooting
> Date: April 16, 2007
> Total fatalities: 32
> Other event considered: Hurricane Camille

Two separate shooting incidents in the university town of Blacksburg resulted in what we now call the Virginia Tech massacre, becoming the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at the time.The killings first occurred when a couple were shot at early morning in a dormitory. The 23-year-old shooter, Seung Hui Cho, would then leave the campus to mail photos and a video of himself. The video contained footage of him ranting about wealthy students, among other topics. Cho would come back to the school and lock several main doors before going room to room shooting people. In total, 27 students and 5 faculty members died as a result of the shooting.

Source: USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory

47. Washington
> Tragedy: Mount St. Helens Eruption
> Date: May 18, 1980
> Total fatalities: 57
> Other event considered: Stevens Pass Avalanche

The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, is considered the most disastrous volcanic eruption in United States history. Before the eruption, there had been a two-month series of seismic events, including earthquakes and steam-venting episodes. An earthquake on the day of the eruption caused the volcano’s north face to slide off, creating the largest landslide ever recorded. This led to the release of high-pressure gas- and steam-rich rock and the volcano exploded. The Washington State Department of Game estimated that nearly 7,000 deer, elk, and bear perished in the area most affected by the eruption, as well as many birds and most small mammals. Millions of salmon also were killed. An estimated 57 people also perished.

Source: Beppeveltri / Wikimedia Commons

48. West Virginia
> Tragedy: Monongah mining disaster
> Date: December 6, 1907
> Total fatalities: 362
> Other event considered: Great Appalachian Storm of 1950

West Virginia is a state known for its coal mining industry, a dangerous profession that can put workers in jeopardy. In 1907, 362 miners were killed by explosions at the Monongah Coal Mines. It remains the deadliest mine disaster in United States history to this day.

The ground reportedly shook as far as eight miles away. West Virginia had looser regulations for mines and their conditions around this time, leading the state to have the highest mine death rate. In 1907, more than 3,200 Americans were killed in mine accidents nationwide.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

49. Wisconsin
> Tragedy: Peshtigo Fire
> Date: October 8, 1871
> Total fatalities: 1,500-2,500
> Other event considered: Sikh Temple Shooting

The deadliest wildfire in U.S. history occurred in rural Wisconsin in 1871. The Peshtigo Fire, as it came to be known, burned up over 1.5 million acres of land. It also killed at least 1,500 people, though amid all the destruction it was difficult to truly know the full death count. Some believe the actual figure could be as high as 2,500 in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Though it was the most lethal fire in U.S. history, the Peshtigo Fire isn’t as well known as other large scale U.S. tragedies because it came at the same time as the Great Chicago Fire.

Source: Bill Larkins / Wikimedia Commons

50. Wyoming
> Tragedy: United Airlines flight 409
> Date: Oct. 6, 1955
> Total fatalities: 66
> Other event considered: Blackwater fire

United Airlines flight 409, bound for Salt Lake City from Denver, crashed into the east side of Medicine Bow Peak 40 miles west of Laramie, Wyoming, killing 66 people. At the time, it was the worst air disaster in United States history. A Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Investigation Report said the pilot, Capt. Clinton C. Cooke, Jr., had flown the route 45 times in 1954. Cooke and his first officer, Ralph D. Salisburg, Jr., were considered good pilots with a perfect record. However, the report stated that it is almost certain the pilots flew over the mountains, probably to save time. Recovery of the bodies was difficult, and only the best mountaineers could reach the peak where most of the wreckage was.