Chapter 3 Engineering Disasters
Infrastructure Disaster – Hyatt Regency Hotel 1981
On the night of July 17, 1981, in Kansas City, Missouri, United States, two suspended walkways of the Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed, killing 114 people and injuring 200 more. During this calamity, the hotel was hosting a dance competition. There were numerous competition attendants and observers standing and dancing on the suspended walkways when connections supporting the ceiling rods that hoisted both the second and fourth floor walkways across the atrium failed and collapsed onto the crowded first floor atrium below.
During investigation after the walkway collapse, architectural engineer Wayne G. Lischka noticed a substantial alteration of the original design. The fabricator constructed a double-rod support system rather than the originally designed single-rod system without approval of the engineering design team. In doing so, the created support beams doubled the loading on the connector which resulted in the failure of the walkway. It was documented that even the single-rod system would have barely supported the expected load and would not have met Kansas City Building Code standards.
The final analysis of the damage had several conclusions reported including:
- The maximum load capacity of the fourth floor walkway was only 53% the maximum load capacity of Kansas City Building Code standards
- The fabrication alterations from the original design doubled the load that was received by the fourth floor walkway
- The deformation and distortion of the fourth floor hanger rods support the notion that the collapse began at that point
- No evidence that the quality of construction or material selection played a role in the walkway collapse.
By Dr. Lee Lowery, Jr., P.E.
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6370077