The Hyatt Regency Skywalk Collapse 1981; The Begining of Urban Heavy Rescue

The Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse July 1981

On July 17, 1981 a suspended walkway collapsed in The Hyatt Regency Hotel  in Kansas City, Missouri, killing 114 people and injuring 216 others during a tea dance. At the time, it was the deadliest structural collapse in U.S. history. This event and a subsequent series of other major incidents in the early and mid 1980′s began the formulative efforts towards defining the emerging field of Urban Heavy Rescue (UHR) that would transition into Urban Search  and Rescue (USAR) in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s. 

Another significant incident occurring in 1981 included the Harbor Cay Condominium Collapse (Cocoa Beach, Florida, 1981). This building was under construction at the time of collapse. Heavy floor and wall construction consisted of precast reinforced concrete slabs and cast-in-place concrete components. All five floors and the roof of the condominium collapsed in a pancake configuration, trapping a large number of construction workers. Eleven were killed and 23 injured. The incident involved more than 60 hours of continuous rescue operations and resources from 5 county fire districts; 16 municipal fire departments; and a response of Civil Defense, military, and private sector technical specialists.

Today marks the thirty year anniverary of the Kansas City event and the lessons learned that continue to be applied towards collapse rescue, urban search and rescue and techncial rescue operations, protocals, techniques, methodologies and preparedness.

On July 17, 1981, approximately 1,600 people gathered in the atrium to participate in and watch a dance competition. Dozens stood on the walkways. At 7:05 PM, the second-level walkway held approximately 40 people with more on the third and an additional 16 to 20 on the fourth level who watched the activities of crowd in the lobby below. The fourth floor bridge was suspended directly over the second floor bridge, with the third floor walkway offset several feet from the others.

Construction difficulties resulted in a subtle but flawed design change that doubled the load on the connection between the fourth floor walkway support beams and the tie rods carrying the weight of both walkways. This new design was barely adequate to support the dead load weight of the structure itself, much less the added weight of the spectators.

The connection failed and the fourth floor walkway collapsed onto the second floor and both walkways then fell to the lobby floor below, resulting in 111 immediate deaths and 216 injuries. Three additional victims died after being evacuated to hospitals making the total number of deaths 114 people.

Direct Link to the 1982 NIST Report, HERE

The hotel had only been in operation for approximately one year at the time of the walkways collapse, and the ensuing investigation of the accident revealed some unsettling facts:

  • During January and February, 1979, the design of the hanger rod connections was changed in a series of events and disputed communications between the fabricator (Havens Steel Company) and the engineering design team (G.C.E. International, Inc., a professional engineering firm). The fabricator changed the design from a one-rod to a two-rod system to simplify the assembly task, doubling the load on the connector, which ultimately resulted in the walkways collapse.
  • The fabricator, in sworn testimony before the administrative judicial hearings after the accident, claimed that his company (Havens) telephoned the engineering firm (G.C.E.) for change approval. G.C.E. denied ever receiving such a call from Havens.
  • On October 14, 1979 (more than one year before the walkways collapsed), while the hotel was still under construction, more than 2700 square feet of the atrium roof collapsed because one of the roof connections at the north end of the atrium failed.
  • In testimony, G.C.E. stated that on three separate occasions they requested on-site project representation during the construction phase; however, these requests were not acted on by the owner (Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation), due to additional costs of providing on-site inspection.
  • Even as originally designed, the walkways were barely capable of holding up the expected load, and would have failed to meet the requirements of the Kansas City Building Code.

 The Kansas City Star has a dedicated memorial website established with images, video and information; HERE 

A look back at the Hyatt Regency Skywalk Disaster, HERE

Kansas City (MO) Fire Department, HERE

Photos from Hyatt Regency Skywalk collapse aftermath, HERE

The high number of dead and injured, the location of the collapse, the size of the collapsed material, and the ineffectiveness of the typical emergency service tools created severe rescue limitations.

The incident required a large number of medical personnel working alongside the rescuers.

Twenty-nine live victims were removed from under the debris during the rescue operations. Heavy rigging and construction specialists and heavy equipment were needed to remove the debris during the rescue operations. large scale rescue operation soon unfolded. Heroes of the evening ranged from a husband who pulled his wife’s trapped foot from the wreckage, to a surgeon who performed an emergency amputation to save a trapped and bleeding victim, to construction crew workers who toiled throughout the night clearing the debris.

A local crane company arrived at the scene to remove sections of collapsed walkway. Dispatchers called in emergency vehicles from throughout the city. Outlying cities such as Belton and Lee’s Summit offered help within minutes of the dispatch calls. Victims were rushed to four nearby hospitals. Donors poured into the Greater Kansas City Community Blood Center. Local talk-show host Walt Bodine broadcast throughout the night. As late as midnight, excavators were trying to reach over a dozen people still trapped under the debris. At 5 a.m., workers uncovered the final 31 bodies from the last slab of concrete to be removed.

The rescue operation lasted well into the next morning and was carried out by a veritable army of emergency personnel, including 34 fire trucks, and paramedics and doctors from five area hospitals. Dr. Joseph Waeckerle directed the rescue effort setting up a makeshift morgue in the ruined lobby and turning the hotel’s taxi ring into a triage center, helping to organize the wounded by highest need for medical care. Those who could walk were instructed to leave the hotel to simplify the rescue effort, the fatally injured were told they were going to die and given morphine.

Workmen from a local construction company were also hired by the city fire department, bringing with them cranes, bulldozers, jackhammers and concrete-cutting power saws.

The biggest challenge to the rescue operation came when falling debris severed the hotel’s water pipes, flooding the lobby and putting trapped survivors at great risk of drowning. As the pipes were connected to water tanks, as opposed to a public source, the flow could not be shut off.

Eventually, Kansas City’s fire chief realized that the hotel’s front doors were trapping the water in the lobby. On his orders, a bulldozer was sent in to rip out the doors, which allowed the water to pour out of the lobby and thus eliminated the danger to survivors.

 

Diagram of the Atrium before the Collapse from the Kansascitystar.com

 

After the Collapse. Diagram from the Kansascitystar.com

Investigators photograph the hanger rods while standing in an aluminum platform designed to change burned out lights in the 5th floor ceiling. Note that the channel beam sections have completely slipped around the supporting nuts leaving the rods, washers, and nuts completely undamaged. The large white material above the rod is fireproofing material. It was later found that the rods were also defective, in that the material used was of a lower strength material than specified. However, this deficiency played no part in the collapse.

Photo of one of the walkway cross-beams, lying on the floor of the lobby. This is one of the 4th floor beams, as evidenced by having two bolt holes drilled through the beam. The 2nd floor beams had a single rod hole.

The Hyatt Regency Hotel walkway collapse did not occur as a result of innovative design, construction or material use, but rather as a product of numerous management errors. It was these fatal management errors that resulted in the flawed construction detail to be used in the support system of the walkways of the Hotel Atrium (Moncarz, Fellow, and Taylor 2000). Various events and disputed communications between G.C.E. engineers and Havens Steel Company resulted in the design change from a single to a double hanger rod box beam connection on the fourth floor walkways (Texas A&M University 2009).
The original design detail of continuous threading of the nut through two stories of the building appeared to be impractical to the contractor and as such he changed the design drawings (Shop Drawing 30 and Erection Drawing E-3) and replaced the original single hanger rod design with a two rod system. In the two rod system, one rod goes from the lower to the upper bridge and the other goes from the upper bridge to the roof truss (Moncarz, Fellow, and Taylor 2000).
This change in the hanger rod more or less doubled the load to be transferred on the 4th floor box beam-hanger rod connection (Marshall 1982). The design load for the fourth floor walkway was 20.3 kips (90 kN) when under the new design system the connection should have had a design load of double that, 40.7 kips (181 kN) (Texas A&M University 2009). The original hanger rod design would have been able to hold the load at the time of the collapse (Marshall 1982).
Within a year, the box beams resting on the supporting rod nuts and washers were deformed, so that the box beam resting on the nuts and washers on the rods could no longer hold up the load, thus the box beams detached from the ceiling rods and the fourth and second floor walkways of the Hotel. Had this change in the hanger rod design not been made, the maximum capacity of the design connection would have been far short of Kansas City building code requirements which require a minimum value of 33.9 kips (151 kN).
The value for the original connection would have been approximately 20.5 kips (91 kN) meaning that the original connection capacity would have been only 60% of what was expected by building codes (Texas A&M University 2009). Apart from the design change, poor management and decisions on the part of the construction firm and engineering firm, and the failure of the connection to meet building codes, other factors resulted in the collapse of the hotel. Quality of workmanship, improper welding and connections, inadequate building material, failure on the part of the hotel to hire building inspectors as well as failure of the building inspectors to allow the building to be occupied despite its hazards were also factors in the collapse (Kieckhafer, Moses, and Warta 2010).
One year into construction on the Hyatt skywalks, G.C.E. Engineers submitted a series of drawings detailing the connections points suspending the walkways to the fabricator, Havens Steel Company.
Originally proposing that a single hanger rod should support the walkways, G.C.E. approved of the fabricator’s suggestion to redesign this connection using two smaller rods. However, a miscommunication occurred between the two groups when neither G.C.E. nor the fabricator made calculations on the strength of the beam, each claiming that they themselves were not responsible. A second opportunity to test the connection points presented itself during the construction phase when the atrium ceiling collapsed: calculations were then made at these crucial points, but not on the skywalk connections. G.C.E. was later held responsible for allowing the design to pass inspection although it was far below Kansas City building codes. Had these points been tested, G.C.E. would have discovered that the critical connections points at these box beams supported only one third of the load capacity required (Nelson 2006).

Close-up of third floor hanger rod and cross-beam, showing yielding of the material. The flanges have been bent significantly, and the webs are bowed out against the fireproofing sheet rock. It should be remembered that the 3rd floor walkway cross beams were subjected to only half the loading of that induced in the 4th floor beams. The distortion shown below was caused by only very light loading, mostly due to the dead load of the structure.

Original Design versus As-Built

LINKS

Check out the following books about the Hyatt Regency disaster held by the Kansas City Public Library:

Continue researching the Hyatt Regency disaster using material held by the Missouri Valley Special Collections:

Additional references:

 

pdf icon Investigation of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse. Building Science Series (Final). (57803 K)
Marshall, R. D.; Pfrang, E. O.; Leyendecker, E. V.; Woodward, K. A.; Reed, R. P.; Kasen, M. B.; Shives, T. R.

NBS BSS 143; May 1982. An investigation into the collapse of two suspended walkways within the atrium area of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Mo., is presented in this report. The investigation included on-site inspections, laboratory tests and analytical studies. Three suspended walkways spanned the atrium at the second, third, and fourth floor levels. The second floor walkway was suspended from the forth floor walkway which was directly above it. In turn, this fourth floor walkway was suspended from the atrium roof framing by a set of six hanger rods. The third floor walkway was offset from the other two and was independently suspended from the roof framing by another set of hanger rods. In the collapse, the second and fourth floor walkways fell to the atrium floor with the fourth floor walkway coming to rest on top of the lower walkway.

  

Chronology Of The Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse

  • Early 1976: Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation (owner) commences project to design and build a Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • July 1976: Gillum-Colaco, Inc. (G.C.E. International, Inc., 1983), a Texas corporation, selected as the consulting structural engineer for the Hyatt project.
  • July 1976- Hyatt project in schematic design development.
  • Summer 1977: G.C.E. assisted owner and architect (PBNDML Architects, Planners, Inc.) with developing various plans for hotel project, and decided on basic design.
  • Late 1977- Bid set of structural drawings and specifications
  • Early 1978: Project prepared, using standard Kansas City, Missouri, Building Codes.
  • April 4, 1978: Actual contract entered into by G.C.E. and the architect, PBNDML Architects, Planners, Inc. G.C.E. agreed to provide “all structural engineering services for a 750-room hotel project located at 2345 McGee Street, Kansas City, Missouri.”
  • Spring 1978: Construction on hotel begins.
  • August 28, 1978: Specifications on project issued for construction, based on the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) standards used by fabricators.
  • December 1978: Eldridge Construction Company, general contractor on the Hyatt project, enters into subcontract with Havens Steel Company. Havens agrees to fabricate and erect the atrium steel for the Hyatt project.
  • January 1979: Events and communications between G.C.E. and Havens.
  • February 1979: Havens makes design change from a single to a double hanger rod box beam connection for use at the fourth floor walkways. Telephone calls disputed; however, because of alleged communications between engineer and fabricator, Shop Drawing 30 and Erection Drawing E3 are changed.
  • February 1979: G.C.E. receives 42 shop drawings (including Shop Drawing 30 and Erection Drawing E-3) on February 16, and returns them to Havens stamped with engineering review stamp approval on February 26.
  • October 14, 1979: Part of the atrium roof collapses while the hotel is under construction. Inspection team called in, whose contract dealt primarily with the investigation of the cause of the roof collapse and created no obligation to check any engineering or design work beyond the scope of their investigation and contract.
  • October 16, 1979: Owner retains an independent engineering firm, Seiden-Page, to investigate the cause of the atrium roof collapse.
  • October 20, 1979: Gillum writes owner, stating he is undertaking both an atrium collapse investigation as well as a thorough design check of all the members comprising the atrium roof.
  • October- Reports and meetings from engineer to clients
  • November 1979: owner/architect assures clients of overall safety of the entire atrium.
  • July 1980: Construction of hotel complete, and the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel opens for business.
  • July 17, 1981: Connections supporting the rods from the ceiling that held up the 2nd and 4th floor walkways across the atrium of the Hyatt Regency Hotel collapse, killing 114 and injuring in excess of 200 others.
  • February 3, 1984: Missouri Board of Architects, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors files complaint against Daniel M. Duncan, Jack D. Gillum and G.C.E. International Inc., charging gross negligence, incompetence, misconduct and unprofessional conduct in the practice of engineering in connection with their performance of engineering services in the design and construction of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • November, 1984: Duncan, Gillum, and G.C.E. International, Inc. found guilty of gross negligence, misconduct and unprofessional conduct in the practice of engineering. Subsequently, Duncan and Gillum lost their licenses to practice engineering in the State of Missouri, and G.C.E. had its certificate of authority as an engineering firm revoked. American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) adopts report that states structural engineers have full responsibility for design projects. Duncan and Gillum now practicing engineers in states other than Missouri.
  • Investigators, including David Tonneman (a respected engineering critic), concluded that the basic problem was a lack of proper communication between Jack D. Gillum and Associates, Christopher Willoughby (a University of Michigan engineering student at the time), and Havens Steel.
  • In particular, the drawings prepared by Jack D. Gillum and Associates were only preliminary sketches but were interpreted by Havens as finalized drawings.
  • Jack D. Gillum and Associates failed to review the initial design thoroughly, and accepted Havens’ proposed plan without performing basic calculations that would have revealed its serious intrinsic flaws — in particular, the doubling of the load on the fourth-floor beams.
  • The engineers employed by Jack D. Gillum and Associates who had approved the final drawings were convicted by the Missouri Board of Architects, Professional Engineers, and Land Surveyors of gross negligence, misconduct and unprofessional conduct in the practice of engineering; they all lost their engineering licenses in the states of Missouri and Texas and their membership with ASCE.
  • While Jack D. Gillum and Associates itself was discharged of criminal negligence, it lost its license to be an engineering firm
  •   

The Following is a direct reference to ENGINEERING ETHICS The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse  pubished by theDepartment of Philosophy and Department of Mechanical Engineering  Texas A&M University  through NSF Grant Number DIR-9012252 Direct Link: http://ethics.tamu.edu/ethics/hyatt/hyatt1.htm

Structural Failure During the Atrium Tea Dance

In 1976, Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation initiated a project for designing and building a Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City Missouri. In July of 1976, Gillum-Colaco, Inc., a Texas corporation, was selected as the consulting structural engineer for the project. A schematic design development phase for the project was undertaken from July 1976 through the summer of 1977. During that time, Jack D. Gillum (the supervisor of the professional engineering activities of Gillum-Colaco, Inc.) and Daniel M. Duncan (working under the direct supervision of Gillum, the engineer responsible for the actual structural engineering work on the Hyatt project) assisted Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation (the owner) and PBNDML Architects, Planners, Inc. (the architect on the project) in developing plans for the hotel project and deciding on its basic design. A bid set of structural drawings and specifications for the project were prepared in late 1977 and early 1978, and construction began on the hotel in the spring of 1978. The specifications on the project were issued for construction on August 28, 1978.

On April 4, 1978, the actual written contract was entered into by Gillum-Colaco, Inc. and PBNDML Architects, Planners, Inc. The contract was standard in nature, and Gillum-Colaco, Inc. agreed to provide all the structural engineering services for the Hyatt Regency project. The firm Gillum-Colaco, Inc. did not actually perform the structural engineering services on the project; instead, they subcontracted the responsibility for performing all of the structural engineering services for the Hyatt Regency Hotel project to their subsidiary firm, Jack D. Gillum & Associates, Ltd. (hereinafter referenced as G.C.E.).7 According to the specifications for the project, no work could start until the shop drawings for the work had been approved by the structural engineer.

Three teams, with particular roles to play in the construction system employed in building the Hyatt Regency Hotel, were contracted for the project: PBNDML and G.C.E. made up the “design team,” and were authorized to control the entire project on behalf of the owner; Eldridge Construction Co., as the “construction team,” was responsible for general contracting; and the “inspection team,” made up of two inspecting agencies (H&R Inspection and General Testing), a quality control official, a construction manager, and an investigating engineer (Seiden and Page).

On December 19, 1978, Eldridge Construction Company, as general contractor, entered into a subcontract with Havens Steel Company, who agreed to fabricate and erect the atrium steel for the Hyatt project.

G.C.E. was responsible for preparing structural engineering drawings for the Hyatt project: three walkways spanning the atrium area of the hotel. Wide flange beams with 16-inch depths (W16x26) were used along either side of the walkway and hung from a box beam (made from two MC8x8.5 rectangular channels, welded toe-to-toe). A clip angle welded to the top of the box beam connected these beams by bolts to the W section. This joint carried virtually no moment, and therefore was modeled as a hinge. One end of the walkway was welded to a fixed plate and would be a fixed support, but for simplicity, it could be modeled as a hinge. This only makes a difference on the hanger rod nearest this support (it would carry less load than the others and would not govern design). The other end of the walkway support was a sliding bearing modeled by a roller. The original design for the hanger rod connection to the fourth floor walkway was a continuous rod through both walkway box beams (Figure 1 below).

Events and disputed communications between G.C.E. engineers and Havens resulted in a design change from a single to a double hanger rod box beam connection for use at the fourth floor walkways. The fabricator requested this change to avoid threading the entire rod. They made the change, and the contract’s Shop Drawing 30 and Erection Drawing E-3 were changed (Figure 2 shows the hanger rod as built).

On February 16, 1979, G.C.E. received 42 shop drawings (including the revised Shop Drawing 30 and Erection Drawing E-3). On February 26, 1979, G.C.E. returned the drawings to Havens, stamped with Gillum’s engineering review seal, authorizing construction. The fabricator (Havens) built the walkways in compliance with the directions contained in the structural drawings, as interpreted by the shop drawings, with regard to these hangers. In addition, Havens followed the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) guidelines and standards for the actual design of steel-to-steel connections by steel fabricators.

As a precedent for the Hyatt case, the Guide to Investigation of Structural Failure‘s Section 4.5, “Failure Causes Classified by Connection Type,” states that:

Overall collapses resulting from connection failures have occurred only in structures with few or no redundancies. Where low strength connections have been repeated, the failure of one has lead to failure of neighboring connections and a progressive collapse has occurred. The primary causes of connection failures are:

  1. Improper design due to lack of consideration of all forces acting on a connection, especially those associated with volume changes.
  2. Improper design utilizing abrupt section changes resulting in stress concentrations.
  3. Insufficient provisions for rotation and movement.
  4. Improper preparation of mating surfaces and installation of connections.
  5. Degradation of materials in a connection.
  6. Lack of consideration of large residual stresses resulting from manufacture or fabrication.

On October 14, 1979, part of the atrium roof collapsed while the hotel was under construction. As a result, the owner called in the inspection team. The inspection team’s contract dealt primarily with the investigation of the cause of the roof collapse and created no obligation to check any engineering or design work beyond the scope of their investigation and contract. In addition to the inspection team, the owner retained, on October 16, 1979, an independent engineering firm, Seiden-Page, to investigate the cause of the atrium roof collapse. On October 20, 1979, G.C.E.’s Gillum wrote the owner, stating that he was undertaking both an atrium collapse investigation as well as a thorough design check of all the members comprising the atrium roof. G.C.E. promised to check all steel connections in the structures, not just those found in the roof.

From October-November, 1979, various reports were sent from G.C.E. to the owner and architect, assuring the overall safety of the entire atrium. In addition to the reports, meetings were held between the owner, architect and G.C.E.

In July of 1980, the construction was complete, and the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel was opened for business.

Just one year later, on July 17, 1981, the box beams resting on the supporting rod nuts and washers were deformed, so that the box beam resting on the nuts and washers on the rods could no longer hold up the load. The box beams (and walkways) separated from the ceiling rods and the fourth and second floor walkways across the atrium of the Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed, killing 114 and injuring in excess of 200 others.

One investigation report gave the following summary:

The Hyatt Regency consists of three main sections: a 40-story tower section, a function block, and a connecting atrium. The atrium is a large open area, approximately 117 ft (36 m) by 145 ft (44 m) in plan and 50 ft (15 m) high. Three suspended walkways spanned the atrium at the second, third and fourth floor levels [see Figure 3 on following page]. These walkways connected the tower section and the function block. The third floor walkway was independently suspended from the atrium roof trusses while the second floor walkway was suspended from the fourth floor walkway, which in turn was suspended from the roof framing.

In the collapse, the second and fourth floor walkways fell to the atrium first floor with the fourth floor walkway coming to rest on top of the second. Most of those killed or injured were either on the atrium first floor level or on the second floor walkway. The third floor walkway was not involved in the collapse.

Following the accident investigations, on February 3, 1984, the Missouri Board of Architects, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors filed a complaint against Daniel M. Duncan, Jack D. Gillum, and G.C.E. International, Inc., charging gross negligence, incompetence, misconduct and unprofessional conduct in the practice of engineering in connection with their performance of engineering services in the design and construction of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The NBS report noted that:

The hanger rod detail actually used in the construction of the second and fourth floor walkways is a departure from the detail shown on the contract drawings. In the original arrangement each hanger rod was to be continuous from the second floor walkway to the hanger rod bracket attached to the atrium roof framing. The design load to be transferred to each hanger rod at the second floor walkway would have been 20.3 kips (90 kN). An essentially identical load would have been transferred to each hanger rod at the fourth floor walkway. Thus the design load acting on the upper portion of a continuous hanger rod would have been twice that acting on the lower portion, but the required design load for the box beam hanger rod connections would have been the same for both walkways (20.3 kips (90 kN)).11

The hanger rod configuration actually used consisted of two hanger rods: the fourth floor to ceiling hanger rod segment as originally detailed on the second to fourth floor segment which was offset 4 in. (102 mm) inward along the axis of the box beam. With this modification the design load to be transferred by each second floor box beam-hanger rod connection was unchanged, as were the loads in the upper and lower hanger rod segments. However, the load to be transferred from the fourth floor box beam to the upper hanger rod under this arrangement was essentially doubled, thus compounding an already critical condition. The design load for a fourth floor box beam-hanger rod connection would be 40.7 kips (181 kN) for this configuration. …

Had this change in hanger rod detail not been made, the ultimate capacity of the box beam-hanger rod connection still would have been far short of that expected of a connection designed in accordance with the Kansas City Building Code, which is based on the AISC Specification. In terms of ultimate load capacity of the connection, the minimum value should have been 1.67 times 20.3, or 33.9 kips (151 kN). Based on test results the mean ultimate capacity of a single-rod connection is approximately 20.5 kips (91 kN), depending on the weld area. Thus the ultimate capacity actually available using the original connection detail would have been approximately 60% of that expected of a connection designed in accordance with AISC Specifications.12

During the 26-week administrative law trial that ensued, G.C.E. representatives denied ever receiving the call about the design change. Yet, Gillum affixed his seal of approval to the revised engineering design drawings.

Results of the hearing concluded that G.C.E., in preparation of their structural detail drawings, “depicting the box beam hanger rod connection for the Hyatt atrium walkways, failed to conform to acceptable engineering practice. [This is based] upon evidence of a number of mistakes, errors, omissions and inadequacies contained on this section detail itself and of [G.C.E.'s] alleged failure to conform to the accepted custom and practice of engineering for proper communication of the engineer’s design intent.”13 Evidence showed that neither due care during the design phase, nor appropriate investigations following the atrium roof collapse were undertaken by G.C.E. In addition, G.C.E. was found responsible for the change from a one-rod to a two-rod system. Further, it was found that even if Havens failed to review the shop drawings or to specifically note the box beam hanger rod connections, the engineers were still responsible for the final check. Evidence showed that G.C.E. engineers did not “spot check” the connection or the atrium roof collapse, and that they placed too much reliance on Havens.

Due to evidence supplied at the Hearings, a number of principals involved lost their engineering licenses, a number of firms went bankrupt, and many expensive legal suits were settled out of court. In November, 1984, Duncan, Gillum, and G.C.E. International, Inc. were found guilty of gross negligence, misconduct and unprofessional conduct in the practice of engineering. Subsequently, Duncan and Gillum lost their licenses to practice engineering in the State of Missouri (and later, Texas), and G.C.E. had its certificate of authority as an engineering firm revoked.

As a result of the Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse, the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) adopted a report that states structural engineers have full responsibility for design projects.

Both Duncan and Gillum are now practicing engineers in states other than Missouri and Texas.

The responsibility for and obligation to design steel-to-steel connections in construction lies at the heart of the Hyatt Regency Hotel project controversy. To understand the issues of negligence and the engineer’s design responsibility, we must examine some key elements associated with professional obligations to protect the public. This will be discussed in class from three perspectives: the implicit social contract between engineers and society; the issue of public risk and informed consent; and negligence and codes of ethics of professional societies.

Annotated Bibliography

Davis, Michael, “Thinking Like An Engineer: The Place of a Code of Ethics in the Practice of a Profession,” Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 2, Spring 1991, pp. 150-167. (see also, “Explaining Wrongdoing,” Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 20, Numbers 1&2, Spring/Fall 1989, pp. 74-90.

In these lucid essays, Davis argues that “a code of professional ethics is central to advising individual engineers how to conduct themselves, to judging their conduct, and ultimately to understanding engineering as a profession.” Using the now infamous Challenger disaster as his model, Davis discusses both the evolution of engineering ethics as well as why engineers should obey their professional codes of ethics, from both a pragmatic and ethically-responsible point of view. Essential reading for any graduating engineering student.

Engineering News Report.

Throughout the hearings, Engineering News Report, published by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), kept vigilant watch over the case. Of particular interest are their following articles:

  • “Hyatt Walkway Design Switched,” July 30, 1981.
  • “Hyatt Hearing Traces Design Change,” July 26, 1984.
  • “Difference of Opinion: Hyatt Structural Engineer Gillum Disputes NBS Collapse Report,” September 6, 1984.
  • “Weld Aided Collapse, Witness Says,” September 13, 1984.
  • “Judge Bars Hyatt Tests,” September 20, 1984.
  • “Hyatt Engineers Found Guilty of Negligence,” November 21, 1985.
  • “Hyatt Ruling Rocks Engineers,” November 28, 1985.
  • “Construction Rescuers Sue,” August 7, 1986.

Glickman, Theodore S., and Michael Gough (eds.), Readings in Risk, Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future, 1990.

This is an excellent collection of essays on managing technology-induced risk. As a starting-off point, of particular worth to the engineers are the essays: “Probing the Question of Technology-Induced Risk” and “Choosing and Managing Technology-Induced Risk,” by M. Granger Morgan; “Defining Risk,” by Baruch Fischhoff, Stephen R. Watson, and Chris Hope; “Risk Analysis: Understanding ‘How Safe is Safe Enough?’,” by Stephen L. Derby and Ralph L. Keeney; “Social Benefit Versus Technological Risk,” by Chauncey Starr; and “The Application of Probabilistic Risk Assessment Techniques to Energy Technologies,” by Norman C. Rasmussen.

Gibble, Kenneth (ed.), Management Lessons from Engineering Failures, Proceedings of a symposium sponsored by the Engineering Management Division of the American Society of Civil Engineers in conjunction with the ASCE Convention in Boston, October 28, 1986, New York: American Society of Civil Engineers, 1986.

This short work examines a variety of engineering failures, including those involving individual planning, and project failures. In particular see Irvin M. Fogel’s essay, “Avoiding ‘Failures’ Caused by Lack of Management,” and Gerald W. Farquhar’s “Lessons to be Learned in the Management of Change Orders in Shop Drawings,” both excellent illustrations for use with the Hyatt case.

Hall, John C., “Acts and Omissions,” The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 157, October 1989, pp. 399-408.

This article is a discussion of the legal and ethical ramifications of professional choices and activities, both active and passive.

“Hyatt Notebook: Parts I and II,” Kansas City, October 1984 and November 1984.

These are two articles written by a Kansas City television reporter for the local magazine, Kansas City, detailing highlights from the 26-week Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse hearings.

Janney, Jack R. (ed.), Guide to Investigation of Structural Failures, prepared for the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Research Council on Performance of Structures, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Contract No. DOTFH118843, 1979.

This short volume gives an excellent overview of structural failure investigation procedures, and discusses failure causes by project type, structural type, and material, connection and foundation type. In addition, discussions on field operations, project management, and data analysis and reports are offered. Of particular interest to those studying the Hyatt case are sections 4.5-4.7, “Failure Causes Classified by Connection Type,” and “Steel to Steel Connections.”

Martin, Mike W. and Roland Schinzinger, Ethics in Engineering (2nd ed.), New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1989.

An excellent text-book treatment of ethical issues in engineering. Of particular interest to this case is Part Two, “The Experimental Nature of Engineering,” and Part Three, “Engineers, Management and Organizations.”

McK Norrie, Kenneth, “Reasonable: The Keystone of Negligence,” Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 13, No. 2, June 1987, pp. 92-94.

This article is a brief discussion of legal liability for professional actions. “The more knowledge, skill and experience a person has, the higher standard the law subjects that person to” (p. 92).

PDF version: Missouri Board for Architects, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors vs. Daniel M. Duncan, Jack D. Gillum and G.C.E. International, Inc., before the Administrative Hearing Commission, State of Missouri, Case No. AR840239, Statement of the Case, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision rendered by Judge James B. Deutsch, November 14, 1985, 442 pp. Note this is a BIG file – 20 Mb!

Word version: Missouri Board for Architects, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors vs. Daniel M. Duncan, Jack D. Gillum and G.C.E. International, Inc., before the Administrative Hearing Commission, State of Missouri, Case No. AR840239, Statement of the Case, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision rendered by Judge James B. Deutsch, November 14, 1985, 442 pp. This has been changed to Word format, without any checking. Many errors are found when the scanner attempted to transcribe the pdf file to Word, but no one has found the time to correct the conversion

This volume contains the findings, conclusions of law and the final decision of the Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse case, as rendered by Judge James B. Deutsch. The volume contains both the findings of the case and an excellent general discussion of responsibilities of the professional engineer.

Pfrang, Edward O. and Richard Marshall, “Collapse of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways,” Civil Engineering-ASCE, July 1982, pp. 65-68.

Official findings of the failure investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Standards, U.S. Department of Commerce. Among its conclusions was this: “Even if the now-notorious design shift in the hanger rod details had not been made, the entire design of all three walkways, including the one which did not collapse, was a significant violation of the Kansas City Building Code.”

 

Lobby Area

 

June 1981

 

Post Collapse

 

MCI Triage Operations

 

Cross Section Architectural Diagram of Walkways

Schematic View of the Walkways

Cross Section Construction Detail of the Walkway

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