Athletes Present as Night Club Ceiling Collapses in Gwangju

James Sutherland contributed to this report.

The roof of Coyote Ugly night club Gwangju, South Korea, collapsed in the very early hours of Saturday morning with athletes present, sources tell SwimSwam. The club is one of two near the Athletes’ Village.

There are believed to be multiple severe injuries and fatalities in the incident, and a source present on the scene said that there was “lots of blood.” We have no confirmed information about the personnel involved, other than that athletes, including a few swimmers, were present.

Update: According to Yonhap News, the second floor of the club collapsed around 2:40 a.m. It also states that an American water polo player was among those injured. A source tells SwimSwam the player has a broken leg.

USA Water Polo gave SwimSwam the following statement, confirming some of its players were present:

“An incident occurred in Gwangju, South Korea in which USA Water Polo Senior National Team athletes were present. All USA Water Polo athletes are safe and accounted for. Our thoughts are with all those involved.”

Breaking New Agency Korea tweeted around 5:00 a.m. local time that a structural collapse in Gwangju led to one death and 13 injuries. That estimate has been increased to 14.

In the video below, screams can be heard as those present try to hold up the ceiling.


South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency cites a source who was present at the time that estimated about 20 foreigners, that appeared to be participating in the World Championships, were at the bar at the time of the collapse. Yonhap also reports that 3 water polo players who suffered minor injuries in the collapse returned to the athletes’ village. Women’s water polo competition at the 2019 World Championships is over; the men’s classification matches are scheduled for Saturday afternoon and evening in Gwangju.


Reports indicate that a female Dutch water polo player injured her hand in the incident.

Yonhap News has increased the death count from one to two and estimates that 370 people were in attendance when the roof collapsed. They also reported that 200 meters of the club were illegally expanded and that the “crumpled structure was also an illegal extension”.

USA Swimming has confirmed no American swimmers were injured.

A source also said the two people who were killed were not athletes.

Update: FINA Statement

FINA has issued a statement on the incident:

“FINA has been informed that an unfortunate accident occurred in the early hours of July 27, 2019 in a facility next to the Athletes Village of the 18th FINA World Championships in Gwangju (KOR).

As some Championships’ participants were present at the moment of the accident, FINA is carefully monitoring the situation and will activate all measures to ensure health care and assistance is provided whenever necessary.

FINA deeply regrets the situation and sends its best wishes to any victims of this accident.”


BBC reports that there are indeed two South Koreans dead and ‘more than 10’ injured. The two locals were taken to hospital in serious condition before dying. They were 38 and 27 and not athletes.

They also reported that two New Zealand water polo players suffered minor injuries, and a male diver and female water polo player from the U.S. team were slightly hurt.

“This is an awful tragedy,” said Christopher Ramsey, head of USA Water Polo.

“Players from our men’s and women’s teams were celebrating the women’s world championship victory when the collapse occurred at a public club. Our hearts go out to the victims of the crash and their families.”

Another source also provided some information on the structural integrity of the building, telling SwimSwam that there was a half-floor size second story above the main floor that wasn’t structurally sound and collapsed due to the weight. There were believed to be 370 people in the club at the time of the collapse.

British Swimming has confirmed in a statement that no members of the British aquatics team were present or involved in the incident.

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3 years ago

I don’t really understand why people got hung up on people hoping their nation’s athletes were okay.

The article said there were people injured and a fatality. Clearly you couldn’t wish for everybody to be okay, because not everybody was okay

3 years ago

Given the latest update, is there any information or a statement from USA Diving?

3 years ago

Rest in peace to the 2 koreans

3 years ago

Two South Koreans died, a few NZ polo players injured at last report….sad

3 years ago

How tragic

3 years ago

Illegal mezzanine

Clark anthony
3 years ago

That’s horrible

Clark anthony
3 years ago

That’s horrible.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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