South Korea balcony collapse kills 2, injures 16 -- including US water polo athletes
At least two people were killed and 16 injured, including three American and other athletes at the world swimming championships, after an internal balcony at a South Korean nightclub collapsed Saturday.
USA Water Polo told the Associated Press that Kaleigh Gilchrist, a female water polo player, suffered a deep left leg laceration that required immediate surgery at a hospital. The other two injured Americans are also water polo players and suffered minor injuries.
Gilchrist, 27, is from Newport Beach, Calif.
“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.”
“This is an awful tragedy. ... Our hearts go out to the victims of the crash and their families.”
The collapse occurred next to the athletes' village in the southern South Korean city of Gwangju. Hundreds of people were at the club at the time.
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Officials said two South Korean men died while 16 others were injured. Among the injured are 10 foreigners, including eight participating in the swimming championships in the city.
Among those athletes were the three Americans, plus two New Zealanders, one Dutch, one Italian and one Brazilian, authorities said. Most suffered minor injuries.
One of the nightclub's co-owners was detained by police. Three other club officials were summoned by the authorities to investigate whether the collapsed balcony was an unauthorized structure.
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Members of the New Zealand men's and women's water polo teams were also at the nightclub. Matt Small, the men’s team captain, said the scene was chaotic and his team tried to help people.
“(It was) business as usual and then it literally collapsed beneath our feet,” Small told New Zealand Radio Sport. “None of the boys are hurt or injured though — so that's good. But everyone's a bit shaken up at the moment.”
“We did what we could but we couldn't really do too much. Some of them were pretty dire cases,” he said. “We were more so just concerned about everyone else, we were trying to do a number count and make sure all the boys were there.”
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The local organizing committee said that at least seven athletes have already returned to the athletes' village after minor treatments at hospitals.
The organizing committee said it won't disclose other personal information about the athletes at the request of their national teams.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.