The water polo community is a close one and the 2019 World Championships will long be remembered for the tragic collapse of an interior balcony at the Coyote Ugly nightclub in Gwangju (KOR) at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning that killed two people and injured at least 17 more, including multiple water polo players.
Members of the U.S. men’s and women’s water polo team were in the club at the time, following the victory of the women’s team at the FINA World Championships. It was reported that eight athletes were injured, including three Americans, two from New Zealand, a Dutch athlete and a Brazilian.
USA Water Polo’s statement included: “[A] handful of USA Water Polo athletes suffered non-life-threatening injuries. All USA Water Polo athletes are safe and accounted for. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy.
“Kaleigh Gilchrist suffered a deep left leg laceration and underwent surgery today at a hospital in Gwangju.
“Paige Hauschild (right arm) and Johnny Hooper (left hand) suffered lacerations that required stitches.
“Ben Hallock suffered minor scrapes (legs).”
New Zealand’s water polo team captain Matt Small said “We were just dancing and then the next minute we dropped five or six meters and everyone started rushing out of the club after that.”
The two fatalities were both Koreans, one who died at the scene and another who passed away at a local hospital.
The head of the local fire station, Young-don Kim, told reporters that there were around 370 inside the club at the time of the collapse. “We deem that the second level… seems to have collapsed because there were too many people on it. The second level is a small space, it’s not a space where a lot of people can be.”