Nightclub Accident in South Korea Leads to Two Deaths, and Injures Several Athletes

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SEOUL—A balcony inside a nightclub in South Korea collapsed on Saturday, killing two people and injuring 16, including American and other athletes at the world swimming championships, officials said.

Hundreds were at the nightclub in the southern city of Gwangju when the collapse occurred next to the athletes’ village.

Two South Korean men died, police said. The 16 injured include 10 foreigners, eight of them athletes who were in Gwangju to participate in the world swimming championships, according to a police account.

Among the athletes were three Americans, two New Zealanders, one Dutch, one Italian and one Brazilian, a police officer said, requesting anonymity ahead of an official announcement. He said most had minor injuries but an American female water polo player required surgery. The other two Americans—a man and a woman—are also water polo players, the police officer said.

Police said they detained one of the nightclub’s co-owners and summoned three other club officials to investigate whether the collapsed balcony was an unauthorized structure.

“This is an awful tragedy,” said Christopher Ramsey, chief executive officer 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.”

Among the Americans, Kaleigh Gilchrist suffered a deep left leg laceration and underwent surgery at a hospital in Gwangju, said Greg Mescall, director of communications for USA Water Polo. He said Paige Hauschild suffered lacerations on the right arm and Johnny Hooper on the left hand that required stitches. Ben Hallock suffered minor scrapes on the legs, he added.

The anti-disaster agency said the injured also included two Uzbekistan exchange students. None of the injured was in life-threatening condition.

Members of the New Zealand men’s and women’s water polo teams were also at the nightclub. The men’s captain, Matt Small, described a chaotic scene and said that his team tried to help the injured.

“(It was) business as usual and then it literally collapsed beneath our feet,” Mr. Small said, speaking to New Zealand Radio Sport by phone. “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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