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Loft collapses inside South Korean nightclub injures U.S. athletes

By
Allen Cone
South Koreans look at the exterior of the Coyote Ugly nightclub in Gwangju, South Korea, on Saturday. A loft inside the nightclub collapsed earlier in the morning, killing two people and injuring more than 17, including athletes competing at the 18th FINA World Championships. Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun.
South Koreans look at the exterior of the Coyote Ugly nightclub in Gwangju, South Korea, on Saturday. A loft inside the nightclub collapsed earlier in the morning, killing two people and injuring more than 17, including athletes competing at the 18th FINA World Championships. Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun.

July 27 (UPI) -- A nightclub loft containing about 100 people collapsed early Saturday at a nightclub in South Korea, killing two people and injuring at least 17, including athletes competing in the world swimming championships.

USA Water Polo confirmed that four of its athletes, were hurt, including one requiring surgery on her leg, during the disaster at the Coyote Ugly nightclub in Gwangju, about 166 miles south of Seoul.

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The balcony, which was about 8 feet above the main floor, collapsed around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, according to the Gwangju Fire and Safety Headquarters. The club is near the athletes' village.

Authorities believe the loft collapsed due to too much weight, Yonhap News Agency reported.

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In all 370 people inside the nightclub when the collapse occurred, they said.

Some loft space inside the nightclub was illegally expanded without the city's authorization, authorities said. Gwangju police said they will form a task force team to investigate the collapse.

Those injured included athletes competing in the FINA World Championships from July 12 through Sunday. Events were in swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming, synchronized swimming and water polo.

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U.S. men's and women's water polo athletes were celebrating the women's world championship -- an 11-6 victory over Spain 11-6 on Friday night. It was the third one in a row for the U.S. women's team and sixth overall championship.

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"All USA Water Polo athletes are safe and accounted for," USA Water Polo said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with all those involved.

Kaleigh Gilchrist sustained a deep left leg laceration and underwent surgery.

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Two other athletes required lacerations that required stitches: Paige Hauschild on the right arm and Johnny Hooper on the left hand.

Ben Hallock had minor scrapes on his legs.

Also injured were two New Zealanders, one Dutch, one Italian and one Brazilian. All except the Brazilian were water polo competitors.

"FINA deeply regrets the situation and sends its best wishes to any victims of this accident," according to a statement by FINA, the international swimming governing body. The organizations intends to "activate all measures to ensure health care and assistance is provided whenever necessary."

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