The July 17, 1981 Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse killed 114 people and injured more than 200 others in Kansas City, Missouri.

It was an honor to wrap-up several months of research and reporting for a television news special last Friday on the 30th anniversary of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency hotel skywalk collapse.

I worked on the special for KCTV5, the Kansas City CBS affiliate.  It’s  where I once worked as a reporter and anchor.

Photo: Kansas City Star

The skywalk collapse was the worst structural failure in U.S. history.  On that July 17th evening 30 years ago, 114 men, women and children died.  Another  216 people were injured.

This KCTV news special,  reporting by the Kansas City Star, and a partnering City in Shock website by the Star and KCTV5 devoted to the skywalk collapse gave surviving victims of the disaster  an opportunity to heal further and come to terms with a tragedy that shocked an entire city.

Click below to see portions of the KCTV special.

Had not so many talented reporters, videographers, producers, editors and news managers worked so hard on this project, younger generations may never have known about or seen video of the night of the skywalk collapse.

More than 1,000 emergency responders worked the Hyatt Regency skywalk disaster on July 17, 1981. Photo: Kansas City Star

Historic videotape reports of that disaster night may not have been located, cataloged, digitized and saved for future generations.  A local television station and newspaper may never have had the opportunity to serve its community and viewers by taking a historic look at one of Kansas City’s most important news events.

Barney McCoy, age 25, reporting at the 1981 Hyatt Regency skywalk disaster.

Truth be told, I’ve spent the last three decades of my life researching, reporting and reflecting on this tragedy. I was the first reporter on the scene that terrible night as a young reporter for Kansas City’s CBS television affiliate.

The KCTV5 Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse news special was a highlight project of my career.  After all, it’s rare that we have an opportunity to work on journalistic endeavors that defined an entire community,,, and us so personally and professionally?

It was a labor of love and respect for those whose lives were so profoundly changed by the skywalk disaster.

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  1. Jon Josserand says:

    Barney: You did an exceptionally professional job 30 years ago at a vewry young age under terrible circumstances. And again another exceptional job measured with experience and wisdom this time. I watched the KCMO-5 retrospective, and listened to the KCUR radio interview with Steve Kraske’s show, Up To Date. It brought back lots of memories and feelings at the time for someone like me who was only tangentially knowing of people involved. Congratulations.

  2. Jon Josserand says:

    Oops. KCTV-5. Sorry.

  3. ehauke says:

    A great, moving account. Thanks for posting this.

  4. Bruce Burton says:

    Barney, I had no idea that you were involved in this. My parents knew some of the dead. I had a high school friend whoseom died there. I recall that some years later the failure was discussed in the book To Engineer is Human.

    Best Regards, Bruce Burton

    • barneymccoy says:

      Hi Bruce,
      Good to hear from you. I will always be grateful to KCTV for inviting me to come back and work with the station’s talented anchors, reporters, editors, videographers and producers on last year’s 30th anniversary news report on the 1981 tragedy. It allowed all who participated the opportunity to get answers to questions that hadn’t originally been resolved in the weeks, months, even years that followed the skywalk’s collapse. It also allowed many of those directly involved in the collapse to get a little more closure.

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