The Mill Valley Record called it the most spectacular disaster in the area since the fire of 1929. David S. Murdoch, 68, and William F. Shores, 72, were killed at 2 PM on Friday, April 4, 1941 when a slide caused three redwood trees to fall on a cottage on Laurel Way in Tamalpais Canyon on the west end of Homestead Valley. A second slide buried them under mud, trees and debris. The winter was a wet one with 61 inches of rain. Slides closed Magee Ave. for two months and Florence Ave. for four months.
The two men had spent a week working on Murdoch’s cottage. They were sitting at the kitchen table as was Murdoch’s son. Mrs. Murdoch was on the porch. At 2 PM, the son heard trees descending and ran out to his mother. They escaped, but the two elderly men were crushed.
A neighbor placed an emergency call. At 2:15, a score of merchants from the Locust shopping district arrived with the fire chief and a police officer. They saw the men crushed under the walls and beams. 15 minutes later, while they were trying to chop away the shattered walls, an unoccupied home above on the nearly perpendicular hillside, buckled and burst open. Mud, trees and debris poured onto the cottage. The rescue workers barely escaped in time. A few seconds difference might have meant death. By 4 PM, large-scale rescue work was underway with scores of volunteers. Many worked all night. A dozen trees had come down in the two slides. Shores’ body was recovered Saturday afternoon. Murdoch’s body was not recovered until Monday afternoon.
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Tam Canyon Tragedy