Update: USA Water-Polo’s Kaleigh Gilchrist Injured As Night-Club Building Collapses In Gwangju, 2 Dead, 14 Injured

Gwangju by night - courtesy, Craig Lord

Editorial content for the 2019 World Championships coverage is sponsored by FORM Swim Goggles. See full event coverage. Follow FORM on Instagram at @FORMSwim #swimwithform FORM Swim-Logo

World Aquatics Championships (TeamUSA water-polo woman injured)


An American water-polo player, Kaleigh Gilchrist, and seven other athletes are among 14 injured among party goers at a club just next door to the Athletes’ Village in Gwangju when a mezzanine floor and balcony collapsed, killing two people.

Two South Koreans were taken to hospital in a serious condition and later died, the Yonhap news agency reported.The deceased were 38 and 27, and were not competitors at the World Championships.

USA Swimming has now confirmed Swimming World’s report that a member of the USA women’s water-polo team had been seriously injured: Gilchrist suffered a deep left leg laceration and underwent surgery today at a hospital in Gwangju.

A balcony and staircase inside the Coyote Ugly nightclub just outside the Athletes’ Village collapsed at 02:29 on Saturday morning while about 370 people were inside.

The identity of most of the victims remains confidential at this stage. Beyond Gilchrist, seven other athletes, including Paige Hauschild,  Johnny Hooper and Ben Hallock sustained minor injuries.

Gwangju 2019 organisers stated:

“Most of the athletes present during the incident returned safely to the Athlete’s Village after a consultation at the official hospital. In particular, eight athletes were involved and seven incurred minor injuries. One remains in hospital for further medical treatment for a minor suture operation for a leg laceration.”

A leading source told Swimming World: “One player is in hospital and receiving treatment for a serious injury. It is an American water-polo player.”

Swimming World understands that arrests have already been made related to the building that houses the nightclubits safety and fitness for use.

USA Water Polo did not confirm that in a statement from Christopher Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo:

“This is an awful tragedy. 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. We are grateful to all those who lended (sic) assistance. All USA Water Polo athletes are safe and accounted for. We will provide updates as we learn more.”
Later in the day, USA Swimming added the following statement: “Last night members of the USA Water Polo Senior National Teams were present at an establishment in Gwangju, South Korea celebrating the Women’s National Team winning the FINA World Championship. During the evening a floor collapsed and 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).
Updates will be shared on these athletes as necessary.

Australian, American, Hungarian, New Zealand and Dutch water polo players are known to have been present when the building collapsed. Both Australian and New Zealand teams have said all their athletes are safe and well.

Among those caught up in the accident last night was Australian captain Rowie Webster, who said:

“Unfortunately I was one of the athletes that fell. I can only speak from my personal experience but it was quite scary. It felt like 30 seconds but apparently I was there for six minutes so we’re just happy and  grateful that everyone came out pretty unscathed. was lucky. I was holding my team mates’s hand at the time, so we were dancing and holding each other so I never felt alone.”

The New Zealand’s men’s water polo captain Matt Small told Radio Sport:”We were just dancing and then the next minute we dropped five or six metres and everyone started rushing out of the club after that … [it was] business as usual and then it literally collapsed beneath our feet.”

Chris Wilson, chief executive of NZ Water Polo, has confirmed that no New Zealanders were harmed in the collapse, while British Swimming also confirmed its athletes were safe stating:

“British Swimming would like to pass on sincere condolences to all those involved in a crush incident at a local venue in Gwangju last night. We can also confirm that no members of the British aquatics team were present or involved in the incident.”

Yonhap news agency reported that the collapse took place at the Coyote Ugly club in the early hours of this morning, and that a high number of foreigners were inside at the time, some of whom were injured. The two people who are believed to have lost their lives are reported as being Korean.

Under a mournful, grey sky at the championships today, the mood is sombre. The men’s water polo finals are being held today.

Je Soonja, Director of Sports Department for Gwangju 2019 Organising Committee, said: “Although this was an unexpected accident that occurred in a club, there were some athletes participating in the World Championships among the injured. We would like to send our best wishes to any victims of this accident and we kindly ask all athletes, officials and fans to remain safe and alert even outside of competition.

“Gwangju 2019 is carefully monitoring the situation and providing maximum convenience in the way of related services such as hospital treatment, transportation, accompanying support and interpretation. Gwangju 2019 will continue to activate all measures to ensure health care and assistance are provided whenever necessary.

FINA issued the following statement:

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.


Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Liu Kwok Kuen
4 years ago

RIP ! Get well soon for all the ?!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x