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Topeka remembers the four mariachis that lost their lives in Kansas City

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 6:14 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -On July 17th, 1981, Mariachi Estrella went to perform at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City when disaster struck.

Rachel Sangalang was with the group, her sister was among the 114 people who lost their lives.

“We had just gotten there around seven and got in the elevator and following a bellhop that was taking us to where we were going change and prepare and we walked onto the skywalks and shortly after 7 o’clock, it collapsed,” said Sangalang.

Before she knew it, she and her bandmates were trapped.

“I looked down at the tea dance that was happening and it just happened so quickly I don’t even remember having time to scream, I was just walking and a second later I was trapped,” she said.

Along with Rachel, Isabel and Carlos lost their sister, “Chay”.

Isabel Gonzales was a part of Mariachi Estrellas but she stayed home that day.

“I didn’t go because my daughter was only four months old and I was nursing her and then that night I got a phone call to turn the tv on and I saw the concrete all over the floor but we still didn’t know that it was my sister or anyone in the group,” said. Gonzales.

Later that night, Chay’s body was found in the rubble.

“My hardest part of that night was my mom telling all of us that it should’ve been her, she was supposed to go first not her child, ” said her brother, Carlos.

“But Chay told me that she hoped she died before my mom and she was 40-50 years younger because she said she couldn’t bear to live without my mom and she did--she died before my mom,” said Gonzales.

The group may not be here today, but its legacy will always live on and inspire the culture of Topeka.

“It’s a wonderful legacy for them to have because there are three mariachi bands in Topeka and there was a high school...a middle school band at Holy Family Church for a while and it’s continuing and it’s something to be proud of and that they loved it so much and spread it all over our community and has continued,” she said.

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