Exactly forty years ago, on June 17, 2021, the United States of America saw the accidental collapse of a structure that killed 114 people. It was a summer’s evening in Kansas City when hundreds of people gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City. There was a tea dance being held at the downtown hotel and television crews were also at the lobby to record this exciting social event on national news.
Unfortunately, two elevated walkways in the hotel collapsed as they broke free from their support rods and fell on the crowd below. There was a crumbled heap of rubble and buried bodies similar to what happened early this month when the Chaplain Towers in Surfside, Miami-Dade County collapsed in the early hours of the morning and killed 100 residents and visitors.
When the walkways at the Hyatt Hotel collapsed 114 people were killed and more than 200 were injured. The collapse, one of the deadliest accidents in the nation, took place in 1981, the same year that the Champlain Towers South was constructed in Surfside.
The concrete “skybridges” that floated in the hotel were held up with rods that were connected to the atrium roof. However, the second-floor walkway was connected to the fourth-floor walkway instead of the roof. As the fourth-floor walkway took double the intended load it collapsed creating a historic disaster.
As the tea dance was going on, onlookers gathered on the walkways to get an eagle eye view of the festivities below. The walkways swayed as the crowd of onlookers increased and the walkways tumbled down as rubble on the revelers and others who were in the lobby.
Dr. Joseph F. Waeckerle, one of the first responders told NPR that it was a shock, despite his experience in helping during disasters. He said that they learnt lessons about communication and more. He said that he understood what families lost in the Surfside disaster.
After the disaster Hyatt Regency paid $140 million in damages to the families of the victims. The engineering firm that designed the skywalks lost its license. Civil engineers studied the disaster to make sure that such an accident never occurred again.
The families and officials at The Champlain Towers South condo, should also continue to look for answers and ensure that those at fault must face the consequences of their careless actions that caused such a major disaster in Surfside, Florida.