Texas A&M has a longstanding tradition of building massive stacks of logs – about 60 feet tall – and burning them. The Aggie Bonfire is a symbol of the school’s “burning desire” to beat their football rival University of Texas. On November 18, 1999, during construction that included about 5,000 logs, the structure collapsed. 12 people died, 24 were injured. Several parents of students injured or killed in the collapse filed lawsuits against Texas A&M. The university settled the final lawsuit filed against it in 2008.
After Texas A&M officially cancelled Bonfire, students planned an unofficial bonfire off campus in 2002, now known as Student Bonfire. The structure is less than half the size of former bonfires, and every log in the stack is tied to the log next to it with baling wire. ABC’s In an Instant will air its episode about the collapse, “Buried by Bonfire,” on July 23 at 9pm.