American water polo player describes terrifying balcony collapse that killed 2

Celebrating the U.S.'s third straight world title at a club in South Korea, the women's water polo team was on a balcony that collapsed.

Gilchrist (in picture) and teammate Paige Hauschild, along with other competitors were celebrating after the Americans' 11-6 win over Spain in Gwangju when the balcony collapsed.   -  Getty Images

Kaleigh Gilchrist was thrilled on Saturday night to be celebrating the United States' third consecutive women's water polo title at the FINA World Aquatics Championships, but the team's elation quickly turned into a nightmare after a balcony the players were standing on at a nightclub in South Korea collapsed, killing two people.

Gilchrist and teammate Paige Hauschild, along with other competitors were celebrating after the Americans' 11-6 win over Spain in Gwangju when the balcony collapsed.

“We were having the best night ever celebrating our win, and somehow, a freak accident happened,” Gilchrist told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Along with Hauschild, Gilchrist said she was with Johnny Hooper from the U.S. men's team when the accident happened.

“It was all pretty quick, I think,” Gilchrist said. “But I remember falling and I talked to Johnny and we kind of thought the same thing: It’s like, we felt like (we were) falling for 10 seconds, which it probably ended up being one or two seconds. But everything kind of slowed down.”

She said she was helped up before she made her way out of the nightclub with Hauschild, but when she got outside she realized how serious her injuries were. 

Gilchrist had deep lacerations on her left leg, along with other cuts. She laid down on the sidewalk, where players on the U.S. men and Australian water polo teams, and Christopher Bates, a trainer for the U.S. men’s team, helped her stop her bleeding.

“Chris was kind of just the biggest blessing,” Gilchrist said. “He came, he’s a trainer, he put his belt around my leg as a tourniquet and he came in the ambulance with me.”

Gilchrist underwent surgery Saturday and remained hospitalised on Monday in South Korea. She said she's lucky and grateful to not have any broken bones or nerve damage and is hopeful she can return to the United States on Tuesday.

Hauschild, Hooper and U.S. center Ben Hallock all were hurt, but their injuries were minor compared to Gilchrist's. Hauschild and Hooper needed stitches, while Hallock sustained scrapes.

“We are the lucky ones and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who have lost loved ones,” Gilchrist said.

According to police (via CBS News), two South Korean men died and 16 others were injured, including 10 foreigners, eight of whom were in Gwangju to participate in the swimming championships.