KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two 'sky bridge' walkways collapsed in the Hyatt Regency Hotel lobby crowded with hundreds of people Friday night, killing at least 43 and trapping and injuring more than 100 others under debris.
'That whole thing just collapsed,' said Fire Department spokesman Harold Knobe. 'We don't know how many people are under it.'
Police Sgt. Jim Treece said at least 43 people were killed in the double collapse. More than 100 were injured, he said. He indicated the count would rise.
He estimated 500 people were on the two balconies and the main lobby floor when the concrete structures collapsed about 7:30 p.m. CDT, pulling down a chunk of the hotel with it.
A Regency spokeswoman described the skywalks as 'balconies that span the lobby' and were referred to by the hotel as skybridges. She said the hotel has three sky bridges but only two collapsed.
Dozens of injured people dressed in evening attire were strewn haphazardly on the ground outside the 40-story, 1-year-old downtown hotel. Some wandered bleeding and dazed.
The Hyatt Regency, one of the tallest buildings in Kansas City, opened July 1, 1980, and was completed at a cost of $50 million dollars. One of the most striking architectural features was the scene of the catastrophe, a 60-foot, high glass walled lobby, spanned by the three walkways, referred to as sky bridges.
The lobby floor was jammed with people attending a Tea Dance, a popular Big Band event that is held each Friday at the Hyatt. The dancing was just ending at the time of the collapse.
A witness said she heard a sudden, loud, clapping noise. She looked up and saw what she thought was the third-floor balcony fall on to second-floor balcony, which all fell to the lobby floor.
'There were hundreds of people trapped,' she said.
At least 30 emergency vehicles converged on the hotel, one of the most elegant in Kansas City, to transport the injured to area hospitals.
Authorities hauled in a variety of extrication equipment, including cranes, to aid in pulling out trapped victims.
The smell of gas permeated the air in the damaged hotel, hampering rescue efforts. Officials were taking extra precautions not to create any sparks that could possibly ignite an explosion.
Sandy Goodrick said about five minutes before the collapse she and three friends entered the hotel to get a drink before attending the dance. Two of her friends were trapped in the rubble.
'I was right underneath it when it fell,' said Ms. Goodrick, who suffered multiple cuts and bruises on her arms, face, neck and legs. 'We just walked in and were by this little couch when this horrible explosion occurred and everything just fell down.
'After it, there were guts and blood all over the floor. There were people screaming for help and trapped underneath, but we couldn't do anything to help them.
'There was a man walking out with a woman and her arms and her leg was gone. Later he said she died in his arms.'
'We saw a hotel official standing on top of the debris and telling firefighters not to break any windows.'