Tragedy struck at a South Korean nightclub, as two died while 16 others were injured after the facility’s balcony collapsed.
Hundreds were at the nightclub in the southern city of Gwangju when the collapse occurred next to the athletes’ village where a world swimming championship is ongoing. Eight athletes including an Olympic gold medallist, US water polo player Kaleigh Gilchrist who won at the Rio Games, were caught up in the tragedy. Cell phone video showed people literally holding up the balcony to try to prevent it from falling.
“An internal balcony collapsed at a club in Gwangju, killing two,” said Song Gi-ju, a detective with the Gwangju Metropolitan Police Agency.
“We have a total of 16 injured and among them ten are foreigners. Of the ten, eight are athletes participating in the championships.”
The police are already investigating possibility of the balcony being constructed illegally, as it was learnt that the two people that died in the incident were locals who were not involved in the swimming championships. The eight injured athletes include three Americans, two New Zealanders, one Dutch, one Brazilian and one Italian.
“This is an awful tragedy,” said Christopher Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo. “Players from our men’s and women’s teams were celebrating the women’s world championship victory when the collapse occurred at a public club. Our hearts go out to the victims of the crash and their families.”
The local organizing committee for the world swimming championships said that eight of the athletes attending the event were injured, most slightly. Personal information about the athletes was not disclosed, at the request of their national teams.