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State Board Revokes Licenses Of Engineers in Hyatt hotel collapse

January 23, 1986

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Two structural engineers held responsible for the 1981 skywalks collapse that killed 114 people at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City lost their licenses as a sign of determination to enforce discipline in the profession, officials said.

″The case almost compelled this kind of discipline,″ Pat McLarney, attorney for the Missouri Board of Architects, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, said Wednesday.

He said the decision to revoke the licenses of Jack Gillum and Daniel Duncan of St. Louis indicates ″the board is going to really control and monitor the profession.″

In a two-page order Wednesday, the board said the license revocation was made ″upon consideration of the entire record″ of the Hyatt tragedy.

Gillum and Duncan had argued that as structural engineers, they were not entirely to blame for the tragedy, but had relied on the work of others not under their direction.

″A catastrophe such as the Hyatt is not caused by nor is the fault of any one or two individuals,″ Gillum testified Wednesday. ″It is the result and culmination of many errors, oversights and human mistakes.″

Wednesday’s hearing was strictly to determine penalties. In November, Administrative Law Judge James Deutsch had recommended Gillum and Duncan be disciplined by the board for gross negligence in the design of the skywalks that collapsed and killed 114 people and injured 200 others.

He ruled that the two were responsible for design drawings used in the project, drawings they approved.

It was the first time blame for the tragedy had been placed on any individuals.

More than 400 civil lawsuits filed by victims or survivors have been settled out of court for about $113 million.

Although Duncan and Gillum said blame should not be placed solely on them, McLarney said that under Missouri law structural engineers were responsible for their work on such projects.

He said the ruling ″clarifies the responsibility of the structural engineer and what sealing a drawing really means.″

Gillum, who at the time of the collapse was president of GCE International, Inc. of St. Louis, said his engineering firm was liquidated as a result of the Hyatt collapse and its assets sold to another firm. He said his investors lost more than $1 million and he faced more than $200,000 in unpaid legal bills.

″I have been publicly denounced, demeaned and chastised by the press,″ Gillum said. ″My career has been destroyed.″

Duncan, who was vice president of Gillum’s firm and the chief engineer on the Hyatt Regency project, said the most important task ahead in his life was to advise and help the engineering and construction industry correct problems of design responsibility, which the two engineers contended were the main cause of the collapse.

The eight-member board deliberated about four hours before handing down its order. A spokesman for the board said the decision was unanimous but declined to give details on the deliberations.

Lawrence Grebel, a St. Louis lawyer heading the defense team, said he would encourage Gillum and Duncan to appeal.

Although the engineers now are prohibited from practicing their profession in Missouri, they could at any time apply to the board for another license, McLarney said.

Earlier Wednesday, Gillum said the incident already had ruined his career.

″The collapse of the walkways is a permanent scar on my life, my heart and my career,″ he told the board.

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