REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF "DEMOLITION DYNASTY"
Copyright 2004 National Geographic Channel
Indigo Films
Produced by Laurie Brian
Series Produced by David Frank

In response to numerous emails and correspondence we have received relating to the recent documentary series put forth by National Geographic, Implosionworld.com has conducted an extensive investigation into the program and many of the statements aired by the program's producers.

Our investigation centered on the first of the three-part series, titled Demolition Dynasty, as the remaining two parts, titled World Record Implosions and Exploding Las Vegas respectively, appear to consist largely of re-worked footage and interview segments appearing in the first program.

Our research consisted, in part, upon a detailed review of our published history of the explosive demolition industry, a detailed review of thousands of relevant archived documents and visual images, contact with National Geographic researchers and others who are specifically referenced in the program, and interviews with various industry veterans and "insiders" whom logical dictates would have been contacted by National Geographic during the course of their own research for the program. The results of our investigation appear below, and have been compiled in a format developed by various well-respected fact-checking websites such as www.snopes.com and www.factcheck.org.

Editor's Note:
All interviewee and narrative quotes appear verbatim as stated in the program, however please note that multiple interviewee or narrator quotes expressing a common claim, either made by multiple speakers or appearing in different parts of the program, have been grouped together so that they may be cohesively addressed.


Key to Summary Comments:

TRUE - This claim or comment is demonstrably true, or can be established by a preponderance of reliable evidence.

SOMEWHAT TRUE - This claim or comment is true in a general sense or with notable conditions or exceptions.

MOSTLY FALSE - This claim or comment may have a kernel of truth to it but is not literally true as stated.

FALSE - This claim or comment is without merit, or a preponderance of reliable evidence exists that directly contradicts the claim.

RECKLESSLY FALSE - This claim is false to the level of having a tangible adverse affect on reputable contractors and/or the integrity of the industry as a whole. Claimant likely either has little or no understanding of the industry or an agenda to intentionally deceive others.




NARRATOR: "The Loizeaux's are called 'The first family of implosions'."

STATUS: MOSTLY FALSE
Considerable evidence indicates that the only entities to ever use this phrase are writers or TV producers who have a financial interest in enhancing the significance of their article or documentary program. Our investigation has not revealed any instance where this phrase was actually used within the demolition industry, to describe CDI or any other blaster.



NARRATOR: "This family blows up buildings and just about everything else with extreme accuracy."

STATUS: FALSE
CDI has performed projects that have gone very well by industry standards, and others that did not go well by any standard. This is not unusual in the industry, however to imply that the company consistently performs with "extreme accuracy" is false and misleading.



NARRATOR: "Over a span of more than 50 years, the Loizeaux's have imploded more than 7,000 structures of all shapes and sizes around the world."

STATUS: FALSE
This "7,000 structures blasted" claim appears to have evolved from an earlier "5,000 structures" claim put forth by National Geographic in their original 1988 version of Demolition Dynasty. However, regardless of its origins, there is no evidence to support this claim and several reasons to question it.

Examining this statement requires little more than doing the math. A 1972 CDI sales brochure and an independent article in Baltimore Magazine both claim that the company felled 191 structures to that point. Fast-forward to summer 1995 when Mark Loizeaux made his first published claim of felling over 7,000 structures. When subtracting 191 from 7,000 and dividing that figure by the 22-½ years in between, the total is an amazing 300 structures per year. This would require imploding more than 1 structure every single workday, including holidays, for 22-½ consecutive years.

Even the most liberal interpretation of these numbers reveal inconsistencies with what any implosion contractor could possibly achieve in such a timeframe. When taking into account that, a) the industry is more active today than ever, b) over the past ten years, the most active contractors have not exceeded more than a few dozen structures in any given year, and c) CDI is by no means one of the most active contractors, the magnitude of this exaggeration becomes even more evident.



NARRATOR: "It was in the 20th century that demolition became a business. First came the low-tech wrecking ball. It did the job, but the process was slow, and it could take several months to completely demolish a structure. Technology quickly changed, and so did the approach to demolishing buildings. Enter Jack Loizeaux."
NARRATOR: "In 1947, Jack was asked if he could take down a chimney."
MARK LOIZEAUX: "And he looked at it and thought, 'It looks like a brick tree.' And just as you notch a tree at the base to get it to fall in a certain direction, my father notched the chimney back in 1947, and by golly it fell right where he wanted it to."
NARRATOR: "The implosion business was born."
NARRATOR: "Jack Loizeaux is widely recognized as the inventor of implosions. He was one of the first to blow up buildings using a controlled explosion."
DOUG LOIZEAUX: "When our company first started it was my mom and dad, and the use of explosives was really a new type of thing."
MARK LOIZEAUX: "He had a passion for experimenting… he had a passion for trying new things. He is generally recognized as being the innovator or the pioneer in the explosives demolition field from a commercial standpoint."

STATUS: RECKLESSLY FALSE
This series of statements is clearly intended to imply that Jack Loizeaux was the first person to fell a chimney with explosives, and one of the first to fell a building. Moreover, the implication is that the "implosion" business did not exist prior to his efforts.

Of all of CDI's flamboyant claims, perhaps none is more offensive - and more often repeated by the company - than the assertion that their family was the first to commercially implode buildings. For more than two decades, CDI has exploited the claim to competitive advantage, from featuring it prominently in company brochures and bidding documents, to posting it on their corporate home page, to making the claim during countless TV and print interviews.

CDI's first public comments of this type can be traced back to the early 1970s, when reporters quoted both Jack and Mark Loizeaux in a series of trade magazine articles. Within a few years, the Loizeaux's were repeating them in additional articles and TV interviews, and the story usually involved some variation of the following:

Jack joined the US Army in the late 1930s and began learning about explosives. Then one day while operation a tree-stump dynamiting business in the late 1940s, someone asked him to fell a chimney. He theorized, "A chimney is like a tree, so maybe I can bring it down with explosives." The chimney fell perfectly, and soon Jack was inundated with requests from across the country to use his revolutionary new technology to demolish all types of structures. One job led to another, which led to him being the first blaster to fell an urban building in 1959, and his self-proclaimed dynasty was born.

Like many "American ingenuity" stories of its day, this one is short and tidy, which is key to its perpetuation. Our investigation also found the story has benefited greatly from the modern media's tight-deadline mentality that restricts comprehensive research and general ignorance regarding the history of explosives or demolition, which in turn has resulted in large numbers of people accepting the claim without questioning it.

The primary problem with the tale, however, is that anyone possessing even a cursory knowledge of the history of explosives knows that a claim of pioneering the industry in the 1940s cannot possibly be true, for a variety of reasons. This also speaks to National Geographic's shortcomings in researching their subject, which as a long-form documentary, did not possess such tight deadline restrictions.

First is the fact that thousands of large buildings were blasted in the early to mid-1940s by military officials razing and rebuilding cities across Western Europe, which occurred well before Mr. Loizeaux blasted his famous smokestack. Countless newsreels (the cutting-edge media of the day) played throughout America in movie houses and on television, showing European demolition specialists using explosives set on multiple delays to successfully bring down structures one after another. So one must ask, as an explosives specialist operating in a major US city, how did Mr. Loizeaux fail to notice even one of these reports or fail to hear of any of these activities being undertaken by his peers in the U.S. Army both domestically and overseas?

Second is the fact that countless large buildings were being "imploded" commercially in the United States as far back as the turn of the century. Scores of newspaper articles and industry archives reveal that commercial explosive demolition garnered significant public interest from its initial inception in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Buildings, smokestacks, towers, bridges, you name it… Hundreds of them, all across America, blasted successfully and publicized by both the local media and dynamite manufacturers looking to exploit new markets for their blasting products. Thus, it is even more of a stretch to imagine how Mr. Loizeaux, who started his blasting business some 50 years later, failed to come across any blasting peer who had felled a single structure, not to mention any of the voluminous information published in newspapers, magazines, or by the suppliers and field consultants from whom he was purchasing his explosives.

A third issue relates to the fact that several European scientific journals profiled smokestacks and other structures being blasted commercially in Europe shortly after dynamite was invented in Sweden in 1867, and well before dynamite was introduced to America. These articles verify that structural explosive demolition was taking place more than 80 years before Mr. Loizeaux blasted his first building.

And finally, our research has revealed an even longer history of structural explosive demolition tracing back more than 100 years earlier than the invention of dynamite, to an age when black powder was used to fell structures.

So with such a long history of commercial explosive demolition existing prior to his arrival in the business, was Mr. Loizeaux just an honest man who, through incredible ignorance or some decades-long series of coincidental informational breakdowns, actually thought he was inventing something new? Or does his company's version of history represent a manipulative grab for any competitive advantage?

We can only speculate on the answer, and we choose not to, in part because Jack Loizeaux passed away a few years ago. But safe to say this subject is still very sensitive with many older veterans of the blasting industry whom we spoke with while researching this topic. While some dismiss CDI's "We invented the industry" claim as an arrogant but harmless distortion of history, others deride it as a major ethical breach and an insult to the true blasting pioneers who lost their lives or risked physical harm to learn the lessons the Loizeaux family has so eagerly and publicly taken credit for, and they point to the fact that CDI continues to make their claims as evidence of that dishonesty.



NARRATOR: "CDI holds an impressive number of Guinness World Records including the largest structure ever demolished, the Seattle Kingdome. Tallest structure ever blasted, the Omega radio tower in Argentina. And the largest number of buildings leveled in a single detonation, 17 structures at the Villa Pan Americanas."

STATUS: FALSE
These claims assert that the above projects represent legitimate "world records" in specific categories of explosive demolition, and that CDI is the company who has set these records.

Existing evidence indicates that each of these claims is without merit.

The commonly accepted world record for most structures leveled in a single detonation is not 17 but 20, shared by two companies, neither of which is CDI. One contractor blasted a series of warehouses and smokestacks in Hamilton, Ontario in 1997, and another blasted a hospital complex in Calgary, Alberta in 1998. Additionally, the Pan Americanas buildings claimed by CDI were not actually "leveled", as portions of five structures remained standing after the blast and had to be pulled down conventionally over the following days.

The world record for tallest structure ever blasted is the 1217-foot tall CBC Transmission Tower in northern Quebec Province in 2001, and it was not blasted by CDI.

The world record for largest structure ever blasted is the Sears Merchandise Center in Philadelphia in 1993, and it was not blasted by CDI. The 2.7 million sq. ft. Sears structure possessed far more area and floor space than the Kingdome, which has apparently bothered CDI enough to create their own new world record category of "implosion volume" in March 2000. The Kingdome "implosion volume" record apparently relates to blasting the structure's concentric column lines around its perimeter, then taking credit for imploding the considerable volume of empty space (air) existing between the stadium's floor and roof.

One reason why this claim rings "hollow" is that the endeavor required far less effort than physically loading and wiring the countless columns, stairwells, elevator shafts and other impediments that typically exist in a 2.7 million square foot building. A second reason is that failing to differentiate between razing actual building footage versus simply relocating air when making a "world's largest implosion" claim is viewed by many in the demolition industry as somewhat deceitful. A third reason is that the Kingdome is not even a world record by CDI's definition, as different blast team imploded the far larger 72.5 million cu. ft. (22 million cu. m.) Basic Oxygen Building at Bethlehem Steel in New York in 1991 (the team has stated they've never laid claim to a "record" for the reasons listed above). And a fourth reason to question the claim is that the roof of the Kingdome never did fully detonate, and brought down hundreds of unexploded charges that took considerable extra time and effort to remove from the columns by hand. Which presents the muddy question, "If the roof wasn't fully imploded, how much of the air existing under the roof was imploded?"

We're not touching that, however we did contact the folks at Guinness to ask whether they have officially recognized these inaccurate claims, or if National Geographic inquired about the claims prior to releasing their documentary. We have also contacted National Geographic to ascertain what research, if any, was performed (aside from dialing up CDI's corporate website) to verify their narrator's statement.

When they get back to us, we will post it here.



DOUG LOIZEAUX: "To change the whole attitude about explosives demolition, my mother (Freddie Loizeaux) did a great press campaign."
NARRATOR: "And in 1972, it was Freddie who was instrumental in putting the entire implosion industry on the map. She even secured national television coverage of an implosion. The Grand Traymore Hotel in Atlantic City was demolished, and America saw it on TV. It was a major turning point for Atlantic City, and the entire implosion industry."

STATUS: MOSTLY FALSE
These comments imply that the industry was somehow unknown to the public prior to CDI's public relations efforts, and that those efforts were directly responsible for the publicity and notoriety that the industry has since achieved.

It is true that CDI became known for promoting their work to media organizations in the 1970s. Those efforts, to whatever extent they are accurate, continue to this day and are widely credited with providing the company many of the opportunities it has been afforded. However, the narrator's comments regarding "putting the entire industry on the map" are exaggerated and misleading. This appears to be another instance where a basic element of truth has been exploited to create a false perception that provides a specific benefit to National Geographic.

Considerable evidence shows that explosive demolition projects have long received substantial media coverage, as far back as 50 years prior to Ms. Loizeaux's public relations efforts. The only limitations have been the sophistication of the media of a given age. From newspapers and magazines at the turn of the century, to industry journals and film newsreels by mid-century, to TV news, which came of age in the early 1970s. So Ms. Loizeaux's efforts notwithstanding, it is difficult to imagine any scenario where TV news would not have continued the long-standing tradition of featuring these types of high-profile events at every opportunity.

Thus, this claim is without merit because it bestows corporate and personal accolades for a series of events that were already occurring and would have unquestionably continued to occur in the absence of the efforts mentioned.

Put another way, National Geographic claiming that CDI is responsible for implosions being seen on national TV is tantamount to implosionworld.com taking credit for implosions being seen live around the world on the internet. There is a specific reason why our team has never made that claim: Because it would have happened with or without us, and to claim anything different is simply not true.



NARRATOR: "Over the years, each demolition has been unique. But one thing that remains the same is the Loizeaux's mastery of explosives. They understand that the types of explosives, the amount of explosives, and the timing of the detonation are the difference between a job well done, and a disaster."

STATUS: SOMEWHAT TRUE
These comments imply that because the Loizeaux's are experienced in the use of explosives, they have never encountered a disaster.

"Disaster" is a strong word, so we'll keep this simple. Yes, CDI has proven to understand the use of explosives, and many times they have mastered the technology, but many other times they haven't. And there is plenty of evidence available to validate this entire conclusion.



NARRATOR: (References J.L. Hudson's Building) "It took more than 3,000 lbs of explosives to topple this mountain of steel, brick & concrete."

STATUS: SOMEWHAT TRUE
This statement and its corresponding video footage within the program make it seem as though the Hudson's project was performed successfully and without incident.

Taken exactly as stated, the comment is true. However what the narrator omits is the fact that large sections of the building fell "outward" on two sides, causing significant structural damage to several adjacent businesses and over $6 million in damages to Detroit's primary inner-city public transportation system, the "People Mover." This elevated railway was out of commission for more than a year, and overall the project resulted in the largest collective damage claim in the history of explosive demolition.



NARRATOR: "CDI's resume speaks for itself, and when they apply for the permit for their (pending) crane job, Baltimore officials discover that the Loizeaux's have been called in to take down structures that other implosion companies have failed to bring down."

STATUS: RECKLESSLY FALSE
This statement makes a very specific claim, and the statement is false. We have found no instance where CDI was contracted to bring down a structure originally blasted by any other firm. See next series of quotes.



NARRATOR: "That was the case in Philadelphia, at the Jack Frost Sugar facility."
MICHAEL TAYLOR (National Demolition Association spokesman)- "There were a number of attempts to bring it down, and it proved a tough nut to crack, the building just would not fall. Eventually the Loizeaux family came up and looked at it and said, 'Well, the building is in relatively bad shape based on the implosions that had previously taken place, let's see what we can do to help it along.'"
NARRATOR: "Authorities granted CDI a blasting permit, but were still nervous about the implosion. Three buildings, a power plant and a chimney were set to go in a single shot. The Loizeaux's entire reputation was on the line."
MICHAEL TAYLOR: "They were able to go in, figure out what was necessary to complete the demolition, set it up, probably under dangerous conditions, and successfully bring it down."

STATUS: RECKLESSLY FALSE
This storyline is completely fabricated. Several Implosionworld.com photographers and writers personally documented this project while working directly for the prime demolition contractor. As such, it can be said with absolute certainty that not only are these comments baseless, but taken as a whole they present a damaging portrayal of the industry while providing the most damning indictment of National Geographic's lack of basic research or oversight of their documentary.

The project that National Geographic is referring to occurred in the summer of 1997. A blasting contractor hired to fell the sugar facility's 13-story headhouse on June 29th failed to do so, and the weakened structure eventually collapsed safely under its own weight later that day.

As one might expect, the contractor was not invited back to perform the second phase of the project (a scenario that has occasionally befallen many blasting firms, including CDI). Several weeks later, CDI was contracted to perform the second phase, which involved blasting two processing buildings and a brick chimney. This wholly independent phase of the project involved completely different buildings possessing none of the characteristics of the first phase (i.e., different structure heights, different footprint, different physical composition, etc.). Workers felled these items without incident, although Mark Loizeaux would later raise questions by publicly claiming credit for "imploding" nine structures instead of three.

To the opposite of the program's assertions, the project's first phase was fully completed prior to the start of the second phase, and at no point was any blast team asked to - or contracted to - finish the work of another. This is a critical inaccuracy is because, as many viewers' emails have noted, the vague, repetitious nature of National Geographic's statements effectively impugn the reputation of every contractor not featured in the program while conveniently omitting CDI's own substantial long-term troubles managing the short end of the same scenario.

Implosionworld.com recently questioned both Michael Taylor and National Geographic about these specific comments. Mr. Taylor wrote us with an apology and pseudo-retraction, stating in part, "I was speaking in general terms based mostly on what I've read and seen on TV, and it is certainly possible that I was wrong on some of the facts. My job is to promote the industry, and my heartfelt apologies go out to any NDA members who feel harmed or injured by my comments."

National Geographic responded with generalized excerpts from published newspaper articles bearing no relationship to the claims made by their program, and has yet to offer any insight into how this particular project came to be so egregiously misrepresented.

If and when there is a response, it will be posted here.



MARK LOIZEAUX: "Didn't you know that chimney's want to stay up? They have a mind of their own. Chimneys don't want to fall. They're recalcitrant. They're reluctant."

STATUS: FALSE
This peculiar series of statements has no basis in truth. A chimney will always collapse towards the path of least resistance, and a blaster's goal is to defeat specific elements within the structure to create an accurate path. These comments seem intended to add levity or humor to the program, but when followed by the statements below, their comedic value is marginalized.



NARRATOR: "The key is getting the chimney to fall in the intended direction. Even a small amount of deviation can spell disaster. Fortunately for the Loizeaux's, disaster has never struck while imploding a chimney, but it has happened to other companies in the demolition business."

STATUS: RECKLESSLY FALSE
This is a ludicrously false statement. CDI has had chimneys fall off center many times, causing damage to adjacent structures and various environmental problems. The examples are too numerous to list. To imply that the Loizeaux's have never experienced a chimney problem and/or somehow possess a better track record than other blast teams is recklessly false and misleading. This appears to be another instance where National Geographic either abandoned fact-checking efforts or intentionally ignored voluminous data that did not support their preferred story line. Simply put, National Geographic has made no attempt at accuracy, balance or integrity here.



MARK LOIZEAUX: "(Regarding chimney's) They're hard, they're very tricky. And if you blink, if you don't pay attention, if you don't do your homework, it's got a long reach."
STACEY LOIZEAUX: "Here we have a 225 foot tall concrete chimney with a BART track, an active rail line, that's 160 feet away. Well do the math. We can reach this BART track. Your biggest concern there, obviously, is having the chimney go the wrong direction and hit the track, because now you not just talking about clean-up or possible damage to the track, you're talking about modifying train schedules, and this gets expensive."

STATUS: TRUE (Learned from experience on J.L. Hudson's & other projects)
In case any viewer didn't get the point by now, National Geographic is of the opinion that CDI is the only contractor worldwide capable of felling a chimney. Also, for a developer or general contractor to use any other blast team is to virtually guarantee a catastrophe.

Considerable evidence reveals that CDI knows all too well the ramifications of having structures fall the wrong way, and their statements here are true. Please also refer to our comments in the previous three sections.



NARRATOR: "If the past is any indication of the future, the first family of implosions will continue to turn destruction into perfection."

STATUS: RECKLESSLY FALSE
Any generalized comment that CDI or any other blast team is perfect, is irresponsible, and blasters worldwide know better than to make this claim. And no, a producer's right to exercise "artistic license" to close their program does not supercede the responsibility to provide at least a nugget of accuracy. This claim is without merit.




STACEY LOIZEAUX: "Every job has to be perfect for us. This is our reputation, this is 50 years of our reputation on the line each and every time we push the button."

STATUS: RECKLESSLY FALSE
The insinuation here is that every CDI job is perfect, and for any not to be is unacceptable to the company.

If that were the case, this company would have hung up their hardhats long ago.

In researching the large number of questionable statements made in Demolition Dynasty, we came across several oft-repeated comments that transcend this individual program, and the statement above is symbolic of them; unconditionally absolute, delivered with a dose of heavy-handedness and allowing for nothing less than an all-or-nothing outcome when actually investigated.

Comments like these place industry-reporting organizations such as implosionworld.com in a potentially delicate position. That is, if the statements are proven true, then we bestow accolades upon National Geographic for profiling CDI as one of the industry leaders it claims to be and our findings are criticized by others as providing unfair promotion for the program. However if the claims are proven false, we risk criticism for appearing to challenge or "pick on" one of the industry's 800-pound gorillas. And if we choose to simply turn the other way or regurgitate corporate press releases verbatim without question (as the National Demolition Association, International Society of Explosives Engineers and others routinely do), then implosionworld.com devolves from a source of reliable news and information into pretty-picture irrelevance.

This is why we have spent an inordinate amount of time researching this program. It is also why we will continue to update our analysis as new evidence warrants, and why we welcome critiques of any program that implosionworld.com itself becomes involved with. Because when all is said and done, facts don't lie, and neither will we.

To set the record straight in the most objective manner possible, meticulous research performed by our team and many others indicates that no blasting contractor in history has created more damage problems, insurance claims, OSHA violations, injuries, fatalities, and overall poor blasting results than CDI. In addition, ethical questions and allegations of improper business practices have plagued the company for decades (including at least one federal indictment), and there is no shortage of general contracting teams, project managers, site developers, competitors and former employees willing to speak out on the subject. This is not to say CDI has not completed some successful projects, because they have. But the fact that the company regularly circumvents standard bidding processes and has taken to preying upon the naiveté of uninformed city officials or project owners to secure contracts - often after having tendered unsuccessful public bids through traditional means - seems to speak to the depth of the team's long term performance and ethical issues.

The point here is, given both this contractor's record and the fact that 25-plus companies have been reputably blasting structures for decades, National Geographic seems to have made an odd selection to promote as their "perfect" blast team.






Do you have a comment? Then write us! There is always more to learn regarding the history of the industry. Please also note that this investigation remains ongoing, and Implosionworld.com will continue to gather facts and modify this page as necessary to maintain the highest degree of accuracy.


Posted 4/6/05
Last updated 12/10/05

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