Bettie turner, pulitzer prize winner, recalls 1981 hyatt disaster – gardner news kansas state vs university of kansas

No one could have predicted that just more than a year later the hotel’s luxurious lobby would be the scene of the deadliest structural collapse in american history at the time.

Local resident, bettie turner who passsed away this week was employed by the kansas city star and was a staff member of the star’s johnson county bureau office in july, 1981.

The kansas city star’s involvement in the investigative discovery of the significant change from the original design of the walkways and reporting the incident and outcome to the public earned the newspaper a pulitzer prize in 1982.

The second story walk way was directly below the highest forth floor walkway and the third floor walkway was staggered beside the two others.

Approximately 56 spectators were standing on the second level walkway, about six or seven were on the forth, and more than 100 people had gathered below on the ground level.Fourth floor walkway

At 7:05 p.M., the fourth floor walkway gave way and fell directly onto the second floor walkway and the two skywalks crashed onto the lower level beneath, killing more than 100 persons.

The former chief of kansas city’s emergency medical system, dr. Joseph waeckerle, managed the medical and rescue efforts by establishing a makeshift morgue in a ground floor exhibition area and using the hotel’s taxicab driveway as a triage area.

It was discovered that two separate sets of tie rods were used with one set connecting the fourth floor walkway to the ceiling, and the other connecting the second floor walkway to the fourth floor walkway.

In the original design, the beams for the fourth floor walkway had to support only the weight of the fourth floor walkway, and the weight of the second floor walkway was supported completely by the rods.Floor walkway

During construction the design was altered in a way that required the fourth floor beams to support both the fourth floor walkway and the second floor walkway directly below.

In conclusion, the engineers employed by jack D. Gillum and associates who had viewed and approved the final drawings were convicted by the missouri board of architects, professional engineers, and land surveyors of gross negligence, misconduct and unprofessional conduct in the practice of engineering.

They all subsequently lost their engineering licenses in the states of missouri and texas. The company of jack D. Gillum and associates was discharged of criminal negligence, but lost its license to practice engineering.

The majority of the settlement was paid by the crown center corporation, a subsidiary of hallmark cards. Hallmark cards was the owner of the hotel’s property.Floor walkway

Her father was a procurement manager for a dairy company, and the family moved throughout kansas and oklahoma when she was a child. Bettie graduated from ottawa high school in 1939.

Soon after high school bettie began her college education with one year at ottawa university, then finished her degree kansas state teacher’s college in emporia.

Turner’s maternal grandparents, arthur and hattie patterson, ran a feed store in gardner, and told her about an open teaching position at the gardner grade school.

In 1960, bettie became a librarian for the gardner library. She had previous experience as a librarian for her college library while studying to become a teacher.

In the 1970s bettie started working in the gardner office of the shawnee journal herald. Soon after, she began her second round of college and attended classes at johnson county community college to study journalism, advertising, copywriting, and creative writing.Floor walkway

Around the time of the hyatt disaster, turner covered a train wreck at the clare road and U.S. 56 highway crossing, which made front page of the star.

When helping to write obituaries from the hyatt disaster, turner recalls “when I called family members of the deceased, they were so patient with me and didn’t seem bothered by my questions when I knew it was such a sad a stressful time for them.”

Standing only a little more than 5 feet tall, bettie has humbly endured and witnessed many historic moments within the last 90 years. (story written in 2011)

Turner hasn’t put down her writer’s pen yet. She still writes articles for “the best times” publication, for which she previously was a board member.

“I must admit that I don’t do my chores as quickly, or as nimbly, as I used to, but given a bit more time and courtesy of being treated as if I have some common sense, I can do it myself!” she said.Fourth floor “I have to recognize limitations and graciously allow them, and enjoy what I can do. I have to let the younger people lead the way and smile encouragingly.”

Reflecting on the past 90 years she says, “in spite of everything, whether you’re focused on your career or what you do with yourself in life, family is really the best thing to have.

“lots of people turn 90. I’m not special and I don’t know the secret to living this long. I have to give the credit to god. He put me here and I’m still going!”