Two locals dead, athletes injured in S. Korea nightclub balcony collapse

GWANGJU • Two South Koreans were killed and several athletes competing in the swimming world championships were injured early yesterday when a balcony collapsed inside a nightclub in Gwangju, according to local media.

The authorities suspect the balcony inside the nightclub, which is located near the athletes’ village, may have collapsed due to too much weight placed on it, news agency Yonhap reported.

Nine athletes – four Americans, two New Zealanders, one Dutch, one Italian and one Brazilian – were injured, according to Yonhap. All except the Brazilian were water polo players.

At least two non-athletes were also injured.

New Zealand Water Polo confirmed on Facebook that two players suffered minor injuries.

“New Zealand players assisted and supported those directly affected, along with supporting Korean authorities,” the New Zealand body added.

New Zealand captain Matt Small, who was in the nightclub with several teammates, said: “(It was) business as usual, and then it literally collapsed beneath our feet.

“None of the boys was hurt or injured though – so that’s good, but everyone’s a bit shaken up,” he told New Zealand’s Radio Sport.

“We were just dancing and then the next minute we dropped 5m to 6m and everyone started rushing out of the club after that.”

The United States water polo team said in a statement on Twitter that members of the national team were in the club, adding that all athletes were safe and accounted for.

It did not confirm the four reported injuries.

The body’s chief executive, Mr Christopher Ramsey, said the incident was “an awful tragedy”.

Fina, the world governing body for swimming, said it deeply regrets the situation and was “carefully monitoring the situation and will activate all measures to ensure healthcare and assistance is provided whenever necessary”.