AND ANALYSIS OF "DEMOLITION DYNASTY"
Copyright 2004 National Geographic Channel
Produced by Laurie Brian
Series Produced by David Frank
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.
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.
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
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
Key to Summary Comments:
- This claim or comment is demonstrably true, or can be established
by a preponderance of reliable evidence.
- This claim or comment is true in a general sense or with
notable conditions or exceptions.
- This claim or comment may have a kernel of truth to it but
is not literally true as stated.
- This claim or comment is without merit, or a preponderance
of reliable evidence exists that directly contradicts the
- 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
"The Loizeaux's are called 'The first family of implosions'."
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
"This family blows up buildings and just about everything
else with extreme accuracy."
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
"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
NARRATOR: "In 1947, Jack was asked if he could take down
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."
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.
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
"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."
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
evidence indicates that each of these claims is without merit.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
they get back to us, we will post it here.
LOIZEAUX: "To change the whole attitude about explosives
demolition, my mother (Freddie Loizeaux) did a great press
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
These comments imply that because the Loizeaux's are experienced
in the use of explosives, they have never encountered a 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.
(References J.L. Hudson's Building) "It took more than
3,000 lbs of explosives to topple this mountain of steel,
brick & concrete."
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.
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.
"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
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.
"That was the case in Philadelphia, at the Jack Frost
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
and when there is a response, it will be posted here.
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."
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.
"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."
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.
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."
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
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
"If the past is any indication of the future, the first
family of implosions will continue to turn destruction into
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.
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."
The insinuation here is that every CDI job is perfect, and
for any not to be is unacceptable to the company.
that were the case, this company would have hung up their
hardhats long ago.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last updated 12/10/05