Friday, a near tragedy occurred in the south central town of Vaxjo, Sweden when the participants in a Weight Watchers group were subjected to a structural failure of the building they were using. During a routine weigh-in to determine the amount of weight each participant had lost, and how much farther they needed to go to meet their goals, the floor collapsed underneath them.
Sven Hogstuffer, one of the twenty or so members of the group said to the Smalandsposten newspaper “We suddenly heard a huge thud; we almost thought it was an earthquake. Everything just flew into the air, then the floor collapsed in one corner of the room and all along the walls.”
After the initial collapse the floor in other parts of the room started to cave in and the stench of raw sewerage flooded the building. According to rescue workers, no one was seriously injured physically due to the amount of body fat surrounding their vital organs. However, serious psychological damage may result from the fact that news teams reporting from the site broadcast a myriad of images of obese club members being pulled from the rubble. After being hosed off, the group moved their scale to the basement of the buildings fire tower to compete their weigh-in.
Although the cause of the collapse is still under investigation, a preliminary report indicates that one corner of the building was loaded to at least five times the maximum design load for that type of construction.
In a statement released by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), headquartered in Geneva, the organization promised to use results from the Swedish investigation report to update their model structural code, and cautioned against such groups gathering in multi-story structures.
In this country, both the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA) and Southern Building Conference (SBC) vowed to immediately update their model building codes. BOCA went so far as to issue an emergency addenda to their current Code calling for a new building class, to be known as FTY-1, that requires structures intended for use by groups of grossly overweight individuals be limited to two stories in height, with the ground floor structure constructed of eighteen (18) inches of reinforced concrete and the second floor structure of bridge girders and a twelve (12) inch reinforced concrete slab.
Speaking through their attorney, I. Will Cheatem of the entertainment law firm of Dewey, Cheatem and How, the producers of “The Biggest Looser’ stated that all of their facilities that are used for weigh-ins or other gatherings of contestants are single story, heavily reinforced structures. Mr. Cheatem went on to state that all structures are designed to withstand a magnitude seven (7) earthquake for the safety of their contestants, and the general public.