I never heard of this. Horrific!
Cash's Chicago balcony collapse thread reminded me of the Hyatt balcony collapse in Kansas City.
It was July 17, 1981.
More than 1,500 people were beginning their weekend by attending the weekly Friday evening tea dance at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Mo.
A tuxedo-clad, 15-piece dance band was playing Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll."
Women in light prints and men in cotton sport coats danced or listened while sipping from cocktail glasses.
Many enjoyed the music in the jam-packed lobby, with toes tapping or hips swaying to the beat.
Others stood and watched from above on the hotel's skywalks -- walkways on the second, third and fourth floors that were made of concrete reinforced with steel beams and suspended artistically by steel girders.
Suddenly, the music and laughter were drowned out by what witnesses described alternately as a "snap," a "roar" or an "explosion."
Within seconds, they were hearing screams as death rained down upon victims of the deadliest accident in the city's history.
The fourth-floor skywalk -- suspended 45 feet above the lobby -- collapsed when steel connections from the walkways to the wall failed.
The skywalk fell onto the second-floor skywalk, directly below and 15 feet above the floor, before both collapsed into the lobby. As they fell they broke third-floor pipes, causing water to gush into the lobby.
That lobby was almost instantly transformed into a tangle of twisted girders and broken glass, marked by spattered blood and the mangled bodies of people torn to pieces or crushed by tons of concrete and steel.
The disaster occurred at 7:11 p.m. and killed 114 people, including almost 50 Kansans. About 200 more were injured.
The tragedy left emotional scars upon those who has witnessed the horrendously bloody, mass death of more than 100 people.
Even today, Topekan Teresa Cuevas hates to think about it.
Mariachi Estrella de Topeka
Cuevas, now 81, suffered serious injuries and lost four close friends in the collapse.
She and her friends were members of Mariachi Estrella de Topeka, a band that played mostly traditional mariachi tunes.
The seven-member group -- which was unique because all its members were women -- was gaining in popularity and had even found itself forced to turn down some engagements.
Six members were to perform at the Hyatt at 8 p.m. on July 17. One, Isabelle Gonzales, had stayed home to care for two young children.
The performers arrived at the 1-year-old hotel at about 7 p.m. They were being led to the room where they were to play and had just stepped onto the second-floor walkway when chunks of concrete and steel rained down upon them and they plunged into the lobby.
The collapse killed band members Connie Alcala, 32; Dolores Carmona, 35; Linda Scurlock, 36; and Dolores Galvan, 26.
Survivors were Cuevas, who suffered crushed vertebrae, a concussion and severe bruising, and Rachel Galvan, who suffered bruises and a broken ankle.
Rachel Galvan, who has since married and taken the last name Sangalang, told The Topeka Capital-Journal the day after the disaster that the collapse had taken her by surprise.
"We went up to the second floor and went around to the side, onto the balcony," she said. "The next thing I knew it was falling from beneath me."
Sangalang was covered by debris and pinned to the floor by a heavy object. She lay trapped for 60 to 90 minutes.
"They pulled a man from beside me who had died," she said. "I was very lucky."
Cuevas told The Capital-Journal later that year that she was "just walking ... and then we all started falling."
Cuevas said she heard screaming and thought she was dreaming. She thought of her family during the roughly 90 minutes she remained trapped beneath the rubble.
"I kept hollering and praying. I was praying aloud in Spanish," she said.
Finally, rescuers came.
"A man grabbed my hand and said, 'Here's a live one,'" Cuevas said. "I wouldn't let go of his hand. I wouldn't let go."
"If our timing had been just a little different"
The Rev. Ken and Jeanette Grenz saw the skywalks collapse from their table at a restaurant in the hotel. But if Jeanette Grenz had gotten her way, she said, they may have been beneath the skywalks.
The Grenzes had recently moved to the Kansas City area, where Ken Grenz was associate pastor for a United Methodist Church in Overland Park. The couple previously lived in South Dakota, where they had taken ballroom dancing classes.
"I saw the tea dances at the Hyatt advertised and thought it looked like fun, so we went," Ken Grenz said.
The tea dances were a Friday night fixture at the 40-story hotel, which was the city's newest and one of its most luxurious. The Grenzes arrived at about 5:30 p.m. and listened to the music but didn't dance.
"The mood was upbeat, Friday night and workweek cares were put aside," Ken Grenz recalled. "The band played in one corner and a line formed under the skywalks for featured strawberry daiquiries."
The couple went up on the skywalks and watched the dancers from above.
"It was a nice view of the dance floor," Jeanette Grenz said.
Ken Grenz and his wife debated whether to get in the drink line under the skywalks or go eat at the Terrace Cafe.
"I won out so we headed up, were seated and ordered," he said. "Our table overlooked the lobby."
Jeanette Grenz said the choice left her "a bit annoyed because I really wanted to dance."
Ken Grenz ordered Shanghai chicken and sat facing the skywalks, with his wife facing him.
"The band was playing 'Satin Doll' when suddenly I saw the skywalks come crashing down on the lobby floor, smashing the festivity beneath clouds of dust sprayed by water spurting from torn pipes where the walks had been ripped from their sockets," he said in written comments.
"After a moment of what felt like silence, cries and chaos began to erupt from the lobby."
Jeanette Grenz doesn't remember whether it was the look on her husband's face or the noise from behind that caused her to turn around.
"But when I looked, the skywalks were breaking in half and falling down and people were trying to hold on but were falling off," she said. "Next thing I remember is steam of some kind pouring from the wall where the skywalks had broken away.
"I don't remember hearing any screams, but my mind must have blocked them out because Ken says he heard lots of screams and moans."
The Grenzes went to their car and left.
Jeanette Grenz closely followed subsequent newspaper and TV coverage of the collapse, and has kept the newspapers.
"I seemed to have a need to know all the stories of the people who died and the people who were trapped for hours but survived," she said. "If our timing had been just a little different, it would have been us who were on or under the skywalks."
Later, the Grenzes each received a check for $1,000 after signing a form promising not to pursue legal action against anyone involved.
"We had to prove that we were there," Jeanette Grenz said. "They interviewed Ken and me separately to see if our stories matched. I also had kept the parking ticket from the Hyatt parking lot from that night since I hadn't needed to turn it in."
She said the woman who interviewed the couple told them many more people had claimed to be at the Hyatt that night than could have possibly been there, so she appreciated hearing a truthful story from people who were there.
Nearly 2,000 survivors and relatives of those who died in the Hyatt collapse filed claims that resulted in the payment of more than $120 million in settlements.
Ultimate responsibility for the collapse was fixed on two structural engineers who designed the faulty skywalks.
The Hyatt's third-floor skywalk, which was not in line with the others, did not collapse but was taken down soon afterward. The hotel reopened in October 1981 with one skywalk, a wider, second-story span.
Sangalang, who plays for a Topeka band, Mariachi Habanero, returned to the Hyatt a couple of years ago. She said the experience was thought-provoking but not as traumatic as she expected it to be.
Cuevas continues to play with Mariachi Estrella. She says her love of music motivated her to reform the band. She prefers not to talk about her experience at the Hyatt.
"I never would want to go back," she said.
The Grenzes later lived in Topeka and Holton, and now reside at Spring Hill in Miami County.
Jeanette Grenz said thoughts about the Hyatt collapse resurface whenever she sees news coverage of such events as the Oklahoma City bombing or the collapse of a dance floor that killed more than 100 people this year in Israel.
Ken Grenz said he doesn't often think about "that seemingly perfectly wonderful night suddenly turned so horrible. Sometimes it seems that the effect is all but gone."
Then, Grenz said, he saw video of the wedding dance collapse. "As the floors collapse on the television screen and the revelers' laughter turns to shrieks, I realize once more that even after two decades, a vestige of that night can still be suddenly re-ignited in my heart."
News video of the aftermath:
Photos of the 'failed components':
I never heard of this. Horrific!
Oh my gosh, I was *just* thinking about starting a thread on this myself.
Death Hag telepathy!
I remember that very well - it was HUGE news at the time. Gruesome and tragic at the same time.
Thanks Nessa! I was thinking about this tea dance collapse just yesterday, for some reason. I did not recall where it happened but remeber the word "TEA" being in the article.
Man, that was way back in 1981? Gah, I'm old!!
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. --Oscar Wilde
I remember this like it was yesterday...20/20 or one of those shows actually broadcast someone's footage of the disaster. Awful thing.
I vaguely remember the incident. That must have been terrifying, to have the floor just disappear from under you like that.
You can't get there from here. http://eclectech.co.uk/mindcontrol.php
The actual footage of this event was featured on a television show called "Disasters" or something to that effect. I remember watching the "collapse footage" on tv as late as last year. I also saw the interviews with the people who were there, and some had just stepped off the walkway, or had just moved from under it. I think several people had massive head and neck injuries from the walkway.
I saw it on a TV show too where they focused on the poor design on the walkway in general and the joints on the members supporting the walkway. When they go into analysis you shake your head and wonder what robot allowed this to be built. i love engineers but some get lazy and don't check the numbers.
I am a sick puppy....woof woof!!!
"You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don't wanna know about it, believe me.” --- Walter Sobchak
I love this program! Seconds to Disaster, I think. The other one I particularly like is the one about the multiple-story mall in Seoul. The Sampoong Department Store. To think, most of these disasters could have been avoided, but there was some serious groupthink involved in the majority of them. It must be a bitch to be an engineer! So much is riding on your calculations.
You were born with an asshole, Doris! You don't need Chuck!
I definitely remember that one, but I had forgotten how many
died. Sad stuff.
Great Post Nessa,-Sad Story
I'd rather get my brains blown out in the wild than wait in terror at the slaughterhouse.
Seconds to Disaster is probably my favorite show. I can only get it on You Tube though. What channel is it on?
"I will be buried in a spring loaded casket filled with confetti, and a future archaeologist will have one awesome day at work."
Bumping up this story after reading the thread on the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. This tragedy happened a few years after and had many similarities - people dressed up, out for a fun evening at a very nice place, losing their lives because safety issues were ignored.
I moved to the KC area a couple of years after this happened. There was still a lot of news coverage about the survivors, lawsuits and families who lost loved ones. A friend of mine dated a young women (early 20's) who lost both parents that day. She had gotten a hefty settlement, lived in a nice condo and drove a fancy car, but she was emotionally devastated by it. She was very depressed, in counseling, going to church a lot.
I visited the KC Hyatt many times when I lived there. It was a beautiful hotel, had some great restaurants and shops. It was right next to the corporate headquarters for Hallmark Cards. There were no signs of the disaster, except the remaining walkway had columns supporting it.
Link to Seconds from Disaster video
Here's a link to a 2008 article about survivors trying to get a memorial plaque placed at the site to honor the victims. Sad that the hotel and Hallmark have done so little to honor their memory.
But for people like Brent Wright, it can never be forgotten. On July 17, 1981, Mr. Wright was 17 years old and working the loading docks at Macy’s, saving money for college, when he heard a radio bulletin about the hotel’s skywalk collapsing into a swing dance in the lobby. He tried to call his mother, Karen Jeter, wondering if she knew anyone there.
There was no answer.
“My mother was the talker, the hugger,” Mr. Wright, now a 45-year-old lawyer, said as he fought to choke back tears. “She liked popcorn. She liked tennis. And she liked to dance.”
Mr. Wright is a member of the Skywalk Memorial Foundation, which is leading a movement to build a memorial to the 114 people who lost their lives in the collapse, including his 37-year-old mother and her husband, Eugene Jeter. It was said to be the worst structural disaster in the nation’s history.
After 27 years, there is not so much as a memorial plaque to commemorate the tragedy. “It was fresh for a very long time,” Mr. Wright said. “It has taken this long for people to work through the grief.”
The foundation is raising money to build a garden and a fountain in Washington Square Park, about a block from the hotel, dedicated to the victims and survivors of the collapse, along with those who helped with the rescue. In a significant boost for the plans, the Hallmark company, which owns the hotel site through a subsidiary, has pledged $25,000 toward the cost, and the city has agreed to put up $100,000.
Last edited by Demgirl; 06-17-2010 at 10:47 AM.
I remember the news coverage of this so vividly! I was spending the summer with my grandmother, and she let me watch all I wanted to because it was news. She'd rather me work on haggery than watch "that shit" like the Monkees. I was a wee bit reluctant to use walkway-type structures for quite a while.
She lived outside of Boston, and would occasionally talk about the Cocoanut Grove fire. Coincidentally, I was at her house for a funeral when The Station nightclub fire happened, and that's all that was on tv for days, it seemed.
I will never forget this, because it happened on my birthday. So did the TWA Flight 800 tragedy.
That one didn't load for me for some reason. Or it took too long and I just don't feel like waiting, lol. In any event, if the same is true for other folks, here's the docu on youtube in five parts:
One of my university professors was there on a date when this occurred. It was his first date with the woman who later became his wife. Talk about having mixed emotions about something!
It's been 30 years ago today that this tragedy happened. I was living in Kansas City at the time, and was watching TV when the station broke in to report this disaster. Almost immediately, all the local television stations and radio stations were giving what information they could. All that was known at the time was that the skywalks had collapsed, and there were hundreds of people in the ballroom for a tea dance when it happened. The Red Cross was asking for people to come right away to give blood, and they had no idea how many were injuried. They did know there were fatalities, but not how many. The rescuers and medical personnel worked frantically to get to everyone as soon as possible. The tons of concrete made everything even more difficult.
Two of my neighbors had been to the hotel a few days before, as they wanted to see it since it was nearly brand new. They mentioned that they walked across one of the concrete skywalks, but it made them nervous. It moved when they walked, due to being suspended, so they took another route to get back down and didn't get on it again. However, no one thought something horrible was going to happen.
My heart goes out to all who died, their loved ones, all who were injuried, their families, and everyone affected. It was just a terrible tragedy.
Wow, this is from 20/20. Actual video immediately after the accident happened. Footage starts about 3:22. it's pretty damn graphic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKojuChxNt8 I'm about halfway through. Interview with a doctor that had to make some hard decisions. Jesus. I'd never heard of this incident.
Last edited by dvz; 07-17-2011 at 07:19 PM.
Last edited by dia846; 07-17-2011 at 07:37 PM.
I saw a SFD on this story. Those skyways were death traps ready to happen.
"I will be buried in a spring loaded casket filled with confetti, and a future archaeologist will have one awesome day at work."
It's been 30 years. I remembered something about walkways and I couldn't remember what it was. Thank you, Google! I found this site:
It makes me so mad when things like this could've been prevented, just like that wedding disaster in Israel.
There also is an "Engineering Disasters" episode about this incident (part of the "Modern Marvels" series).
"The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply, 'Create silence'."
-- Soren Kierkegaard
I am aware this post is dated, but I am very interested in this event after reading about it. I actually found a pictures from a rescue worker who was there, pretty awful stuff but fascinating at the same time:
Omg. I'd never heard of this.
That's going to give me nightmares for days.
"Who looks at a screwdriver and says 'This needs more sonic'?"
The video of the last survivor is hard to look at. He's on his stomach under debris and his back is broken. You can see his FEET facing forward over his shoulders!! The man operating the jackhammer didn't know he was down below. The poor man was screamin' his guts out and the jackhammer rammed through the space between his side and arm. The second time the drill broke through, it went between his legs. Fortunatly, they turned it off for a second and heard his screams. He survived the ordeal.
Can you imagine surviving the initial collapse only to thing you'll be jackhammered to death???
Some of the survivors were literally encased in corpses. The med folks had to cut through the bodies to free them.
Last edited by Nelliebean; 03-06-2012 at 12:22 PM.