July 17, 1981: 114 People Were Killed When A Walkway Collapsed At A Kansas City Hotel
On July 17, 1981, a festive crowd had gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri for a night of dancing, but the revelry was cut tragically short after two of the lobby's walkways collapsed under the weight of the dancing throngs. The accident, the inevitable result of faulty design and shoddy workmanship, killed 114 people and injured over 200 more.
The Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse
Construction on the Kansas City Hyatt Regency began in May 1978 and quickly ran into problems. Unexpected costs, labor shortages, and other setbacks threatened to delay the hotel's opening, but a few fateful shortcuts got the project across the finish line by July 1, 1980. The upscale, 40-story hotel was a stunning work of architecture, particularly its enormous lobby featuring steel and glass catwalks that crisscrossed overhead, connecting different floors and wings of the building. Each weighed more than 64,000 lbs. and stretched about 120 feet.
The Hyatt Regency hosted weekly events, and on July 17, 1981, it was a Friday night tea dance. More than 1,600 people showed up to party, about 40 of whom crowded onto the second-floor catwalk and 20 on the fourth-floor to get their boogie on. At 7:05 P.M., however, several guests heard a strange popping sound. Seconds later, the fourth-floor catwalk suddenly dropped a few inches, paused, then completely broke free. It crashed onto the second-floor catwalk, causing it to break loose, too, and both walkways plummeted to the dance floor below.