Construction Cited in Fatal Gym Cave-in


Flawed design, shoddy construction and inadequate building management are being blamed for the collapse of an auditorium roof that killed 10 people and injured 103 in South Korea.

Most of the victims were college students.

The roof of the Manua Ocean Resort gymnasium in Gyeongju collapsed Feb. 17 as roughly 560 new freshmen at the Busan University of Foreign Studies gathered for an orientation ceremony about 9 p.m., according to various reports.

Some of the students had noticed a crack in the auditorium ceiling before the cave-in and had managed to escape, initial reports related.

Workers struggled with heavy snowfall as they spent hours pulling survivors from the debris and recovering trapped bodies, reports said. Images of the roof collapse and the aftermath are available here.

An investigation into the cause of the deadly collapse was immediately launched.

'Numerous Problems'

“The gymnasium showed numerous problems in terms of design, construction and supervision,” Bae Bong-gil, a lead South Korean police investigator, told members of the press Friday (Feb. 28), according to the Yonhap news agency.

Built in 2009, the steel panel structure was made using a pre-engineered building method, often used for warehouses and factories, reports said, citing city officials.

The contractor was South Korean construction company Songwon.

The police said on-site engineering inspections and reviews of architectural drawings pointed to numerous structural flaws, including an inadequate amount of bolts holding together an auxiliary pillar and the roof, the report said.

In addition, some of the building materials used in construction did not meet government standards, Yonhap said.

Heavy Snow Not Removed

The police also blamed resort management for not removing heavy snow that had piled up on the roof. More than 19 inches of snow had fallen during a winter storm before the welcoming party.

The Kolon Group is the owner of the resort, according to the Associated Press. A spokesperson for the company told the news outlet that the auditorium had not been examined by an outside inspector since 2009, but that internal safety inspections were completed each month.

A local architect who reportedly inspected the building after its construction told the Wall Street Journal after the collapse that the snow accumulation was likely the cause, as he had found no design issues during his inspection. The resort owner agreed.

South Korea

South Korea has been hit with heavy snowfall. About 19 inches of snow had fallen on the roof of the Gyeongju building and had not been cleared, reports said. 

“The building was probably designed to withstand the weight of the regional average snowfall,” architect Kim Jong-Jin said.

“This year’s snowfall was far heavier than the average. They should have removed snow from the rooftop,” he said.

'Heavy Responsibility'

Kolon Group chairman Lee Woong-yeul and other officials visited the scene the day after the collapse, the AP reported.

"We especially feel a heavy responsibility about the fact that the young people who were about to begin college life died before their dreams began to blossom," Woong-yeul reportedly said.

Police say they plan to seek criminal charges against the responsible parties.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Building Envelope; Construction; Design; Fatalities; Health and safety; Roofing materials

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