Mayor of the City of Berkeley, Tom Bates, has not ruled out making a criminal complaint if the investigation into Tuesday’s balcony collapse, in which six Irish students died, confirms that the collapse was caused by bad workmanship.
On Wednesday night, Bates announced that the balcony collapse was primarily caused by water-damaged wood. Initial investigations into the collapse suggest that the wood supporting the balcony was not properly caulked or sealed when the building was constructed.
“More than likely, it was caused by rain and water damage that was caused to the support beams,” the mayor said.
It has since emerged that Segue Construction, the California firm which built the Library Gardens apartment complex where the balcony collapsed, had paid $3 million last year to settle a case over alleged defects in another apartment scheme they owned.
Mayor Bates has said that he would now advise Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to bring charges against Segue Construction if the investigation finds that they did not build the balcony properly.
Californian Court records show that the company made the payment to settle legal action taken against them because it was believed that they had not properly waterproofed balconies in the apartment scheme.
Mayor Bates does, however, warn against jumping to conclusions until the investigation is complete and the result is confirmed.
“If there are some grounds for some criminal actions, I would hope that the District Attorney would weigh that and make a decision on whether to pursue that,” he said.
Five Irish students and one Irish-American student lost their lives early Tuesday morning as a balcony broke from the Library Garden complex at 2020 Kittredge Street in Berkeley. The victims were named as Olivia Burke, 21; Eoghan Culligan, 21; Lorcan Miller, 21; Niccolai Schuster, 21; Eimear Walsh, 21; and Irish-American Ashley Donohue, aged 22.
We are so proud of the strength & solidarity of the families & students. We have been sustained by your support. https://t.co/DCZ3VxmpA8— Irish Consulate W US (@IrelandSanFran) June 19, 2015
An emergency service worker, who does not wish to be named, spoke to the Irish Times about the scene he witnessed immediately after the balcony collapse. He drew similarities with “a scene out of a movie.”
On answering the emergency call to the building where the fourth-floor balcony collapsed, he said that there were bodies “all over the place” as he moved from person to person to assess who was breathing and who would react to him.
“It was unreal,” he continued.
Preparations are now beginning to repatriate the remains of the five Irish students back to Ireland now that all the necessary autopsies are complete. The autopsies revealed that the six students died of blunt injuries received in the collapse.
Two of the victims, Olivia Burke and Irish-American Ashley Donohue, are cousins and will have a joint funeral in Ashley’s hometown, Rohnert Park, just north of San Francisco. Ashley will be buried there before both families travel to Ireland to bury Olivia.
Seven injured students are still being treated for the injuries they sustained in the collapse in three different hospitals in the Berkeley area. They were named Hannah Waters, Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Niall Murray, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin & Conor Flynn, all aged between 20 and 22.
The two victims from #BerkeleyBalconyCollapse incident are upgraded to fair condition at John Muir— Janet O (@JanetONews) June 19, 2015
It is believed that the group were celebrating the 21st birthday of Aoife Beary when the accident occurred.