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30 Years Later — The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Skywalk Collapse

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On the evening of July 17, 1981, what was the deadliest structural collapse in U.S. history struck Kansas City's year-old Hyatt Regency Hotel when two suspended walkways collapsed, killing 114 people and injuring 216 more. The failure was traced to a change in the original design for the walkways. The structural engineer of record denied responsibility, attributing the failure to a breakdown in communication, but investigators were not persuaded, and the engineering practice lost its license. Thirty years later, ASCE reflects on the disaster's lasting effects on the civil engineering profession. 

Hear a new, special podcast interview with an original investigator

Paul R. MungerPaul R. Munger, Ph.D., P.E. F.ASCE, helped investigate the responsibility for the structural failure 30 years ago. Today, he is chairman of ASCE's Committee on Professional Conduct. Recently, Munger shared his reflections of the tragedy, and what he considers its lessons for the engineers of today and tomorrow, in a special podcast interview for ASCE.

The 21-minute interview can be heard in its entirety, or as individual responses to each question. Choose your option by clicking on the links. The podcast is also downloadable for listening at your convenience; right-click on the link and choose "Save as" to download a copy.

Entire podcast  

Podcast questions

Paul Munger question 1
Podcast Question 2
Podcast Question 3
Podcast Question 4
Podcast Question 5
Podcast Question 6
Podcast Question 7

Articles in depth on the disaster's causes and aftermath

The Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities volume 14, number 2, issued in May 2000, included several highly detailed articles on key facets of the Hyatt Regency skyway collapse. On the occasion of the anniversary, these articles are available free for a limited time. Click on each article to go to its ASCE Library page to access PDF copies.

•  "The Engineer of Record and Design Responsibility"  by Jack D. Gillum, P.E.
The engineer of record for the design of the hotel, including the skyways, provides his perspective.

•  "Chronology and Context of the Hyatt Regency Collapse"  by Gregory P. Luth, Ph.D.
Includes many details which were not made public following the collapse due to litigation.

•  "Engineering Process Failure—Hyatt Walkway Collapse"  by Piotr D. Moncarz, P.E., F.ASCE, and Robert K. Taylor, P.E.
Analysis of the box girder-to-hanger rod connection at the heart of the skywalk failure, how the error happened and how it could have been prevented.

•  "'The Hyatt Horror': Failure and Responsibility in American Engineering"  by Sarah K.A. Pfatteicher
Examining how the Hyatt incident helped the profession learn a powerful, if painful, lesson about the meaning of ethics in engineering.

Other resources

Links to more on the skywalk collapse, from ASCE and other sources.

•  "Quality in the Constructed Project: A Guide for Owners, Designers, and Constructors" (ASCE Manual No. 73) Second Edition, 2000. Click "Google Preview" to view excerpts.
The first edition was developed and produced by ASCE in response to the Hyatt incident. A third edition is under development, slated for release in 2012.

•  "Moment of Crisis," ABC News "20/20" video, July 23, 1981
Vintage network news report from a week after the incident. 

•  "Beyond Failure — Forensic Case Studies for Civil Engineers" by Norbert J. Delatte Jr., Ph.D., P.E., 2009. Click "Google Preview" to view excerpts; search for "Hyatt Regency Walkway."
The skywalk collapse is one of 40 examples of engineering failures covered in the book that have had far-reaching effects on civil engineering practice.

•  "Investigation of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse"  May 1982
Findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

•  "City in Shock — Honoring the Lessons and Legacy of the Hyatt Skywalk Collapse"  The Kansas City Star and KCTV-TV Channel 5, Kansas City, July 2011
An online special by the newspaper and television station combining vintage articles and video with present-day retrospectives. 

•  The Skywalk Memorial Foundation, Inc.
Official Web site for Kansas City group planning a permanent memorial and tribute to victims of the disaster and the emergency workers who responded.