Special Report

The Worst Tragedy in Every State

Source: Ashley M. Wright / U.S. Air Force photo

16. Kansas
> Tragedy: Piatt St. Plane Crash
> Date: January 16, 1965
> Total fatalities: 30
> Other event considered: 1955 Tornado Outbreak

In early 1965, a plane crashed into a neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas, killing 23 people on the ground and seven crew members. The plane was a Boeing tanker carrying jet fuel for the Air Force.

The plane crashed only four minutes after takeoff, just a short ways away from Wichita State University. The jet fuel and high winds caused massive flames, making it difficult for first responders to find victims.

Source: Gbauer8946 / Wikimedia Commons

17. Kentucky
> Tragedy: Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire
> Date: May 28, 1977
> Total fatalities: 165
> Other event considered: 2009 Ice Storm

The Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate was a hotspot that once hosted entertainment luminaries such as Frank Sinatra. Tragedy struck when the building caught fire and 165 people perished. A Kentucky state investigative report found 10 contributing factors to the tragedy, among them: Overcrowding in the club’s Cabaret Room, where most of people were killed; no employee training in evacuation and emergency procedures; no audible alarm or sprinkler systems.

Source: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

18. Louisiana
> Tragedy: Hurricane Katrina
> Date: August 29, 2005
> Total fatalities: 1,833
> Other event considered: Pan Am flight 759

When meteorologists first noticed the tropical depression that became Hurricane Katrina over the Bahamas, evacuation warnings were soon spread to Gulf Coast states. In fact, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued the city’s first-ever mandatory evacuation the day before Katrina made landfall. What made New Orleans the most at-risk city was its infrastructure. The Army Corps of Engineers had built a system of levees and seawalls throughout the 20th century to keep the city from flooding. But when Katrina hit, the levees failed. As a result, 80% of the city to flooded. And of the 1,577 direct and indirect fatalities in Louisiana, 40% were by drowning. Hurricane Katrina caused between $108 and $160 billion in damages across several states, and is the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.

Source: U.S. Library of Congress

19. Maine
> Tragedy: RMS Bohemian Sinking
> Date: February 22, 1864
> Total fatalities: 42
> Other event considered: 1919 Onawa train wreck

There have been events in Maine’s history that have led to a greater loss of life than the sinking of the RMS Bohemian off the state’s coast, near Elizabethtown. There have also been deadlier shipwrecks. But the 1864 sinking of the steamer in heavy fog is a particularly sad tale as the ship was full of immigrants looking forward to a new life. They were at the end of a long voyage when the ship lost visibility, struck a rock, and sank, leading to the drowning of 42 people. The wreck and the dead have been largely forgotten by history.

Source: Acroterion / Wikimedia Commons

20. Maryland
> Tragedy: Tivoli pier disaster
> Date: July 23, 1883
> Total fatalities: 63
> Other event considered: Pan Am flight 214

A picnic in 1883 lead to disaster in Baltimore. About 500 people, many of them families, bought barge tickets and traveled to a park called Tivoli for a day out. However, as many waited on the pier for the return trip, the barge hit the pier and sent dozens of people into the water. Darkness made it difficult to rescue the people who suddenly fell into the Patapsco River, contributing to the chaotic scene. In all, 63 people, many of them children, drowned as a result.