Death at the Hyatt
July 17, 1981 - On this day 114 people were killed and over 200 were injured when an elevated walkway collapsed at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City, Missouri.
The disaster struck as 1500 people packed into the hotel's lobby to watch a dance competition. Spectators congregated on the overhead walkways with about 20 people at the highest level on the 4th floor. At 7:05PM witnesses heard two loud popping sounds. Seconds later the 4th floor walkway failed and 30 tons of debris rained down on the 2nd floor walkway. Both structures crashed to the lobby floor.
111 people were killed almost immediately and 3 more would eventually die from their injuries. Many survivors were pulled from the rubble during a 14-hour rescue operation.
Flooding from broken pipes also posed a threat. At one point the lobby doors were bulldozed to allow rising water to escape before it drowned the survivors.
In the aftermath it was determined that a critical design flaw was the cause for the tragedy. The engineering firm, Jack D. Gillum and Associates, was found guilty of gross negligence and was stripped of its license.
Victims and their families have received over $140 million in awards from civil lawsuits.
The hotel lobby has been rebuilt and remodeled since the disaster but no plaque or memorial marks the spot of one of the deadliest structural collapses in U.S. history.