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In an unexpected move denounced by Mayor Richard Berkley,...

By LORI LINENBERGER

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In an unexpected move denounced by Mayor Richard Berkley, workmen at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Thursday removed the third skywalk from the hotel's lobby where two similar aerial walkways collapsed last week, killing 111 people.

Moving swiftly before dawn, a large portion of the 32-ton concrete-and-steel skywalk had already been disassembled before Berkley was awakened at 2 a.m. by a reporter's call.

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The mayor, who has called for a blue-ribbon citizen's panel to join four other investigations of the Friday night disaster at the 40-story luxury hotel, indicated the removal of the last skywalk might hamper the inquiries.

'Obviously it should be taken out (sometime) because it too could be dangerous,' Berkley said. 'But it seems to me that having a crosswalk that is quite similar to the ones that collapsed could provide some clues into why the first two walkways collapsed.

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'We are just beginning the process of analyzing what in fact happened and we don't want it ever ever to happen again, so no, I don't think the hotel had to be in such a rush to take it out.'

A spokesman for the hotel's owners, Crown Center Redevelopment Corp., said the move was done only 'in the interest of safety' and that it would not hamper investigations into the Friday night disaster.

But Berkley, who later in the day led a city-wide memorial service for victims of the accident, said it seemed to him 'that this does not build public confidence.'

Berkley made no reference to the incident during an afternoon memorial service. Proclaiming an official day of mourning in the city, he placed a wreath of red, white and pink flowers in the city hall chamber.

'Kansas City 111' was inscribed the wreath's red ribbon. Relatives of many of the victims stood nearby and wept.

'Our community stands ready to offer a host of services for your assistance in these days of loss and confusion, and we will do everything in our power to help soften the terrible effect of the incident that changed your lives,' he said.

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The Hyatt Hotels Corp. also announced that the Friday tea dances, one of which had been underway in the Hyatt Regency Hotel when the two skywalks collapsed, would be postponed indefinitely.

'We've canceled them out of respect for the victims in Kansas City,' a spokesman for the corporation said. 'We felt it would be in bad taste to continue the dances, even if they are in other cities.'

The dances were being held at Hyatt hotels in only four cities -- Dearborn, Mich., Milwaukee, San Francisco and Kansas City.

The Kansas City Council Saturday night honored the 111 people killed in the tragedy, and then sent Berkley's proposed citizen's investigative committee to another committee.

Berkley, who introduced an ordinance to create the citizen's committee, said: 'A heavy obligation has fallen on this city and on the city council. We must demonstrate to the community that we are deeply concerned and make sure pertinent information is available to the public.

'I feel the committee that will look at the facts and make some recommendations will benefit our city.'

The 12-member council voted to send the ordinance to committee because Berkley had asked for 25,000 in funding.

In another development, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said a construction accident that collapsed a section of the hotel's atrium roof 20 months ago did not involve safety violations and probably had no relation to the skywalk disaster.

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An OSHA official said the construction accident in October 1979 was not in the same area as the skywalks that collapsed. A section of the atrium roof fell four stories into the lobby during a weekend when no one was in the building and there were no injuries.

A San Antonio, Texas, lawyer known for personal injury lawsuits said he would probably file a dozen suits against the hotel with damages exceeding $500 million.

'It's going to be one of the most significant negligence cases in U.S. history,' said attorney Pat Maloney Jr.

At least eight suits have already been filed on behalf of the survivors and relatives of victims of the disaster. One suit listed famed attorney Melvin Belli as the attorney of record. More than $200 million were being sought in the suits and officials expected more. The mayor contacted numerous city officials in an attempt to stop the removal of the third walkway, but discovered the city had no authority to halt the action at a privately owned facility.

A day earlier, Berkley had authorized the National Bureau of Standards to investigate the cause of the collapsed skywalks. Investigators for the bureau had requested the third walkway be left intact to enable a thorough inquiry into the accident.

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James C. McClune, president of the Crown Center Redevelopment Corp., which owns the hotel building, said the decision to take the 120-foot-long skywalk out was made on the urgings of experts who determined it could be a menace to workmen attempting to restore the atrium lobby.

Hotel officials Wednesday removed the remains of the two modernistic skywalks that collapsed to the lobby floor Friday night during a quiet tea dance, trapping and crushing scores of dancers and revelers.

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