Kansas City Hyatt Regency Skywalk collapse

Kansas City: One second; joy and good times - the next second; the sky fell.

July 20, 1981 – When The Sky Fell Down On Kansas – A Beverage Called Malathion – Farewell To Harry Chapin

Hyatt Regency Skywalk collapse
Kansas City: One second; joy and good times – the next second; the sky fell.
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July 20, 1981 – ABC World News This Week – Week Ending July 20, 1981 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

News for this day was a look at the week past. And on that Friday, the 17th, the scene at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City went from dancing to the sounds of big band to a crowd of some 2,000 happy people to anguished screams and flying glass and debris as the skywalk directly over the guests collapsed. Some 111 people were killed in the collapse, either crushed by falling concrete and steel beams or from flying glass. Crews and first-responders immediately went to work, digging through rubble, pulling out survivors.

Kansas City Mayor Richard Berkeley called it the worst building disaster in Kansas City history and an investigation was begun to determine what it was that caused the first walkway to give way. But it was already apparent to many that there was a fault in construction somewhere and the year-old building may have a number of other structural issues. But it was too early to fix blame on anyone or anything, there would be plenty of time for that. In the meantime, the Hyatt Regency promptly closed the entire Hotel and moved the remaining guests to other Hotels in the area.

The continuing saga of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly was making the news this week. The war against the potential pest was heating up again with controversy surrounding the spraying of Malathion over large patches of ground. Despite extensive spraying over the previous 8 months, the verdict was still out, but it wasn’t considered a success. Many claimed the chemical was unsafe which prompted California Governor Jerry Brown to suspend spraying out of concern for public health and to declare California a Disaster area in the hopes of receiving Federal monies from President Reagan to cover damage to crops and businesses. To prove a point that Malathion was safe – so safe, in fact that you could drink it, Civilian Conservation Corps director B.T. Collins poured himself a glass of the stuff, watered down to the consistency to match what was sprayed, and gulped it down. The verdict: it tasted like Kerosene and was ghastly. California was also barring and confiscating any fruits and vegetables attempted to be taken out of the quarantine area.

The Baseball Strike was heading into its fifth week with no end in sight. The only person feeling relatively upbeat about negotiations was Federal Mediator Ken Moffat, everyone else was pessimistic that the strike would have lasting affects and do more to damage the game of Baseball than to help it.

And singer/songwriter Harry Chapin died this week, killed in an auto accident when his car was hit by a semi-trailer truck outside Jericho New York. Chapin was en route on the Long Island Expressway to perform at a free benefit concert at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, New York that evening. At 12:27 PM, Chapin was fatally injured in a fiery traffic collision with a semi-trailer truck outside Jericho, New York. Passersby managed to help the unconscious Chapin out of his engulfed 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit and he was immediately taken by helicopter to the nearby Nassau County Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 1:05 PM due to internal bleeding. He was 38.

And that’s just a small slice of what happened in the world this week, thanks to ABC Radio News World News This week for July 20, 1981.

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