NewsLocal NewsHyatt Regency Skywalk Collapse: 40 Years Later

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Dozens gather at the Skywalk Memorial on 40th anniversary of Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse

Skywalk Memorial
Posted at 5:24 PM, Jul 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-18 10:32:13-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Dozens of people gathered outside of the Skywalk Memorial on Saturday, to honor those that died 40 years ago during the Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse in 1981.

"About 1500 people gathered over there in what was then the Hyatt Hotel, and gathered with family and friends for a night of fun and dancing," Brent Wright, who lost his mother and stepfather in the collapse said. "Unfortunately, we had an evening turned into disaster and tragedy."

114 people were killed during the collapse.

“It's one of those events where we all know where you were when the skywalk collapse happened,” Wright said.

On July 17, 1981, a tea dance at the Hyatt Regency turned deadly when two skybridges at the hotel collapsed. The event injured hundreds and killed many party goers.

One doctor who was there helping the victims recalled that very day.

"(First you) Identify the people who are going to die no matter what you do,” Dr. Joe Waeckerle, a former emergency room technician at Baptist Medical Center said. “People that are going to live no matter what you do and then the people in the middle that have a chance to live if you can intervene, and those are who you go after."

Wright reflected on why he decided to attend the event on Saturday.

"We are here today because those events have touched all of us in one way or another," Wright said. "I've said it a lot of times before, unfortunately a lot of us are members of a club we didn't want to join."

Even though this happened decades ago, the hotel’s architect still remembers it like it was yesterday.

"In the middle of the night, I had been asked to examine more closely the connection of the bridge that had fallen," Bob Berkebile, architect of the Hyatt Regency Hotel said. "I was climbing up to examine this connection, and about at this point, in the cables that were still attached to the side of the bridge, was a part of a face, and I thought it was one of my friends and I collapsed."

An investigation found that engineers were at fault for the collapse and not Berkebile. Those engineers lost their licenses.

So many lives were changed after this day 40 years ago. While loved ones miss those who died, there is one thing they hold onto.

“They were remarkable people who left us way too soon," Wright said. "They left behind a lifetime of unfilled hopes and dreams and while we miss them dearly, we must remember they lived on within each of us."