The Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation started a project with Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City in 1976. With the consulting structural engineer Gillum-Colaco, Inc., their subsidiary firm, Jack D. Gillum & Associates (G.C.E), the architect, PBNDML Architects, Planners, Inc., the general contractor Eldridge Construction Company, and the fabrication and erection of hotel’s atrium steel Havens Steel Company, they built the hotel. Divided into three groups: design team, construction team and inspection team, they made the 40-story tower section, function block, and the connecting atrium where the accident happened.
Having an area of approximately 117 ft. wide x 145 ft. long x 50 ft. high, three suspended “skywalks” spanned the atrium at the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor levels, where the 3rd and 4th floor walkways were suspended from the atrium roof trusses, and 2nd was suspended from the 4th floor walkway using rods.
Starting with the architecture and the design of the atrium, PBNDML prepared the project specifications and G.C.E. for the drawings in structural engineering. From the structural drawing, the Havens used it as a basis for shop fabrication drawings.
G.C.E.’s Original Design
The catwalk design was designed with six single continuous 1 1/4 ‘’ diameter round steel rods anchored in the ceiling. Used in the three catwalk levels, each were comprised of two 8 x 8.5 MC channels, welded toe-to-toe. Using a nut and washer to secure the rods, the 4th floor was connected from the ceiling and its rods continued until the 2nd floor to support the weight. The design was drawn with 60 plates; including it are the design criteria, calculated preliminary loads, and information on the box beam hanger rod connection. However, the calculations were not passed on to the fabrication team.
The Haven’s perspective was to change the plan because of the long rods required to hang the second floor were not available and would delay the project. Another is that it would require them to do scaffolding extensively for they will thread the entire long rod in order to install a nut under the 4th floor catwalk box beam which would be installed after installing the rod through the 2nd floor catwalk box beam. It would cost them when damaged during the erection process.
They changed it from single to a double hanger rod box beam connection at the 4th floor catwalk. The first one hung the 4th floor walkway while the second one hung the 2nd floor walkway connected to the 4th floor catwalk. It simplified their workload and eliminated the higher cost erections.
They continued with this design and stamped with the project engineer’s engineering review seal on February 26, 1979, authorizing construction.
October 14, 1979, Sunday, the time while it was still under construction, part of the atrium collapsed. No work was done during that time so no one got hurt. The inspection team handled the investigation of the damage. Seiden- Paige, hired by the owner, determined the cause. It was due to faulty roof connections. They fixed it and continued with the work, but didn’t check the walkways or any other structural details.
G.C.E. wrote the owner stating that they would begin a thorough design check of all steel connections in the design. The work continued and it opened for business in July, 1980. The Accident
July 17, 1981, one year after the hotel opened, the overloading of the people standing on the walkways caused one of the connections at the 4th floor walkway to fail. It caused it to fall on to the 2nd floor walkway, down to the ground. It caused the water pipes to fracture, flooding the main entrance. Despite it, 40 rescue vehicles moved fast enough to enter the hotel and help others. It so happened to be that the doctors were on to a Radiology seminar somewhere in the hotel that they utilized their expertise faster. It resulted to 114 people died and almost...