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Police accelerate probe into collapse of club balcony in Gwangju

Police on Sunday are speeding up the investigation into a collapse of a balcony inside a nightclub in Gwangju, which killed two people and injured 16, including eight foreign athletes competing at the world swimming championships a day earlier.

A task force dedicated to investigating the accident called in one of the three co-owners of the club for questioning to see whether there was any professional negligence, according to Gwangju Seobu Police Station.

Two of the co-owners and a club official have already been booked on charges of professional negligence. 

Two Korean men died while 16 others were injured as the balcony at the club next to the athletes’ village collapsed at around 2:40 a.m. on Saturday, police said. Among the injured were 10 foreigners, including eight athletes participating in at the 18th FINA World Championships.

None of the injured were in life-threatening condition, according to the organizing committee of the competition.

Authorities suspect the loft space inside the club was illegally expanded and modified without the municipality’s authorization. Police investigated 15 people, including club officials, victims and government officials, following the collapse.

Police are looking into whether Gamma Hydroxybutyrate, which is commonly referred to as a “club drug” or “date rape” drug, was used at the nightclub. Officers sent alcohol bottles and glasses they collected to the National Forensic Service.

When the collapse occurred, there were about 370 people inside the nightclub.

Among the injured athletes were three Americans, two New Zealanders, one Dutch, one Italian and one Brazilian, according to police. They are all water polo players except the Brazilian, with six of them women.

USA Water Polo confirmed that players from its men’s and women’s teams were at the club celebrating the women’s world title from Friday evening.

Among foreigners on the injured list were two Uzbek men.

The competition began July 12 and was set to conclude Sunday night.