Aggie Bonfire Collapse

It shook the university like 9/11 shook the nation.

Every autumn for more than 90 years, Texas A&M students and alumni built and burned a campus bonfire to rev up fans on the eve of the Aggies’ annual rivalry football game against the Texas Longhorns. What began as a scrap heap eventually became a towering six-tier log structure that took several weeks to construct and attracted between 30,000 and 70,000 onlookers. The University ended the longstanding tradition following a tragic accident at the 1999 Bonfire.

In the early hours of November 18, the structure collapsed as participating Aggies were stacking its fourth tier. It took emergency personnel nearly 24 hours to rescue and recover those trapped within the unstable pile of 5,000 logs. Of the 58 people working on the structure at the time, 12 died and another 27 were injured. Texas A&M President Ray Bowen subsequently appointed an independent commission to investigate the collapse. The inquiry identified a containment failure in the first tier as the primary cause, but also blamed organizational factors like the lack of expert oversight or a written design schematic.

Every autumn for more than 90 years, Texas A&M students and alumni built and burned a campus bonfire to rev up fans on the eve of the Aggies’ annual rivalry football game against the Texas Longhorns. What began as a scrap heap eventually became a towering six-tier log structure that took several weeks to construct and attracted between 30,000 and 70,000 onlookers. The University ended the longstanding tradition following a tragic accident at the 1999 Bonfire.

In the early hours of November 18, the structure collapsed as participating Aggies were stacking its fourth tier. It took emergency personnel nearly 24 hours to rescue and recover those trapped within the unstable pile of 5,000 logs. Of the 58 people working on the structure at the time, 12 died and another 27 were injured. Texas A&M President Ray Bowen subsequently appointed an independent commission to investigate the collapse. The inquiry identified a containment failure in the first tier as the primary cause, but also blamed organizational factors like the lack of expert oversight or a written design schematic.

Every autumn for more than 90 years, Texas A&M students and alumni built and burned a campus bonfire to rev up fans on the eve of the Aggies’ annual rivalry football game against the Texas Longhorns. What began as a scrap heap eventually became a towering six-tier log structure that took several weeks to construct and attracted between 30,000 and 70,000 onlookers. The University ended the longstanding tradition following a tragic accident at the 1999 Bonfire.

In the early hours of November 18, the structure collapsed as participating Aggies were stacking its fourth tier. It took emergency personnel nearly 24 hours to rescue and recover those trapped within the unstable pile of 5,000 logs. Of the 58 people working on the structure at the time, 12 died and another 27 were injured. Texas A&M President Ray Bowen subsequently appointed an independent commission to investigate the collapse. The inquiry identified a containment failure in the first tier as the primary cause, but also blamed organizational factors like the lack of expert oversight or a written design schematic.

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