South Korea nightclub balcony collapse kills two and injures swimming world championships stars

‘We fell on top of the heads of other people that were beneath us,’ says athlete involved in disaster

Emma Snaith
Saturday 27 July 2019 13:57
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Footage shows panic inside South Korea nightclub after balcony collapse kills two

Two people have died and several athletes attending the world swimming championships have been injured after an internal balcony collapsed in a South Korean nightclub, the local fire service has said.

Hundreds were inside the seven-storey club when the floor gave way at around 2am on Saturday in the city of Gwangju.

Clubbers ran to the exit screaming after the collapse, while dozens were hit and pinned down by the structure.

Two South Koreans were taken to hospital in a serious condition and later died, Yonhap news agency reported. They were aged 38 and 27 and were not competitors at the championships.

Among the 16 people injured were eight athletes who were participating in the 2019 Fina Aquatic World Championships, which finish on Sunday.

Seven of the athletes suffered minor injuries while one remains in hospital for treatment of a leg laceration.

Three of the injured athletes were from the US, two from New Zealand and one each from Italy, the Netherlands and Brazil, Yonhap reported. They were all water polo players apart from the Brazilian athlete, the agency said.

Matt Small, captain of New Zealand’s water polo team, said some of the injuries sustained after the accident were “pretty dire”.

“We were just dancing and then the next minute we dropped five to six metres and everyone started rushing out of the club after that,” he told New Zealand’s Radio Sport.

Police stand outside the Coyote Ugly nightclub in Gwangju, South Korea, after an internal balcony collapsed killing two people

“We fell on top of the heads of other people that were beneath us.”

Members of the Australian women’s water polo team were also in the club celebrating their bronze medal success but were not injured, Water Polo Australia confirmed.

Christopher Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo, said that accident was an “awful tragedy”.

“Players from our men’s and women’s teams were celebrating the women’s world championship victory when the collapse occurred,” he said.

“Our hearts go out to the victims of the crash and their families.”

Kim Young-don, chief of the Gwangju Seobu Fire Station, told reporters that the balcony collapsed because “there were too many people on it”.

“The second level is a small space, it’s not a space where a lot of people can be,” he said.

A police officer told Reuters that two co-owners and two workers at the Coyote Ugly nightclub were being questioned about possible illegal expansion and renovation at the nightclub, and the legality of its licensing process.

Fina, the International Swimming Federation, said in a statement it “deeply regrets the situation and sends its best wishes to any victims of this accident”.

“As some championships’ participants were present at the moment of the accident, Fina is carefully monitoring the situation and will activate all measures to ensure health care and assistance is provided whenever necessary,” it added.

Additional reporting by agencies

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