This Day In History: January 20

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On January 20, 1980, bleachers at a bullring in Sincelejo, Colombia, collapse, resulting in the deaths of 222 people.

The collapse at Sincelejo, the deadliest tragedy at a sporting event in Colombia’s history, was the result of overcrowding and poor construction. In addition to the 222 spectators killed, hundreds more were injured. Despite the fact that bullrings were more closely regulated and inspected in the aftermath of Sincelejo, a temporary bleachers in Honda, 60 miles southeast of Bogota, collapsed in February 1989. In that incident, seven people died and 300 more were injured.

Disaster again struck a Colombia bullring in October 2006. A partial collapse of the spectator stands in Doima injured more than 100 people. Such collapses have taken place in the United States as well. During a high school photo session in Richardson, Texas, in March 2001, 42 students were injured during a collapse. In June 1986, wooden bleachers at a circus in Greenport, New York, collapsed and injured 68 people, two of whom suffered serious spinal fractures. 

When wooden bleachers were still common in the United States at the turn of the 19th century, the most notorious collapse disaster was at a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Braves in 1903. In the second game of a doubleheader, an altercation between two drunken men and some teenagers caused a commotion that drew the crowd to the top of the bleacher area. Suddenly, the bleachers collapsed and hundreds of people crashed 35 feet to the ground. Twelve people died and 232 were seriously injured.