At the Hoover Dam, which traverses Clark County, Nevada and Mohave County, Arizona, well over 100 workers gave their lives to see it come to completion. And unofficial estimates have suggested that hundreds more may have jumped to their deaths there since. But for one Welshman, who jumped into the dam not on a suicide wish, but a drunken dare, the odds of him making it back home were dramatically lowered by his own less-than-well-advised actions last month.
In a story that just came to light this week in the British tabloid The Sun, 28-year-old Arron Hughes’ swim across the structure that serves America’s largest reservoir at Lake Mead via the Colorado River was brought to light. By all accounts, he’s unbelievably lucky to be alive.
It was the early hours of August 10 when Hughes and some friends, who were on a 37-hour classic Las Vegas bender, decided to make the 40-minute drive from Sin City out to the popular tourist attraction. That’s when his pals made a dare to Hughes that he couldn’t swim across the Colorado River, which he accepted.
He climbed down the steep rocks on the Arizona side and swam for about 30 minutes. Upon reaching the Nevada side, law enforcement officers quickly took him into custody.
Attempting to swim across the Hoover Dam is a jailable offense, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But officers only cited Hughes for a $330 fine for “jumping, diving or swimming from a dam, spillway or other structure.”
“He was intoxicated. It was a quasi-dare from his friends to see if he could do it,” said Ian Canaan, chief security officer for the dam. “He’s very fortunate to have made it.”
Hughes’ odds for success were on a par with playing Russian roulette nine times and not firing a bullet.
Of the dam’s 10 intakes, which force water in and down to power the hydroelectric turbines, only one was operating at the time. Hughes is thought to have swum closely to at least two during his escapade, both of which were turned off, or this story would have had a more macabre ending.
Media reports state the disabled intakes prevented him from being sucked underwater, but some experts are debunking such claims, saying the intakes above the dam aren’t strong enough to suck in a human. There are also metal grids blocking large items from entering the power system.
Hughes now holds the dubious title of being the first man to swim across the Hoover Dam and live to tell the tale.
Should Hughes’ bid to become the first person to swim from Arizona to Nevada across the dam have ended in his more likely demise, his name would have been added to a long list of those who have died at the Lake Mead facility.
More suicides take place in Las Vegas than any other city in America, as many looking to end their lives travel to Sin City for one last hurrah. According to data from the National Association of County and City Health Officials, 34.5 people per 100,000 commit suicide in Las Vegas annually.
There are no official records of the number of suicides committed at the Hoover Dam, although some sources claim it is close to 300 since it was completed in 1936.
Though there have been calls to increase security measures by raising wall barriers on Kingman Wash/Hoover Dam Access Road, which runs across the top of the dam, today pedestrians can still easily clear the concrete divider and fall to their deaths down the 726-foot cliff.