Officials from the City of Berkeley, near San Francisco, have confirmed that the eight wooden beams supporting the fourth-story balcony that collapsed killing six students were massively compromised due to dry rot.
The report, compiled by City of Berkeley engineers, stated, "The deck joist ends protruding from the exterior wall appeared to be severely dry rotted."
The District Attorney's office has "reached out" to the City Council and said it "will begin looking at the matter." However, the office stressed that no formal investigation has been launched.
Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County in California, Teresa Renick, told RTÉ it would be "premature at this point" to say there was any investigation.
The only recourse currently available to those involved is to launch civil actions.
The students who lost their lives were Ashley Donohoe (22), from Rohnert Park, California; Olivia Burke (21); Eimear Walsh (21); Eoghan Culligan (21); Niccolai Schuster (21); and Lorcan Miller (21); all from Ireland. Their funerals are taking place throughout this week.
Five of the other seven students injured in the incident – Jack Halpin, Conor Flynn, Niall Murray, Clodagh Cogley, Aoife Beary and Hannah Waters, all 21 – remain in the hospital in California. Sean Fahey, one of the other injured is reported to have arrived home.
The preliminary ten-page report found that the balcony, in the Library Gardens complex on Kittredge Street, completed in 2007, should have been able to support up to two tonnes. Last Tuesday morning the balcony collapsed under the weight of the Irish and Irish American students and dropped 40 feet to the sidewalk.
A full report on the balcony’s condition will be completed over the coming months.
The City of Berkeley has confirmed that, in light of the report’s findings and the scale of the tragedy, new regulations will be brought into force.
Tests were carried out on another two balconies at the complex. They had a slightly different designs and showed no signs of distress or water damage.
The building's original plans show they were in compliance with all of the requirements of the time, some of which have been upgraded since, and that all mandated inspections were carried out as required.
An official said, “Based on their observations, City staff will recommend that the City Council adopt new and modified regulations to enhance the safety of all current and future buildings in Berkeley.
"The changes would make new balconies and other sealed areas exposed to weather subject to stricter requirements on materials, inspection and ventilation.”
“In addition, the proposed regulations would institute regular maintenance inspections for all such spaces for future buildings as well as those units already built."
The construction company that built the Library Gardens complex has paid out over $26 million in lawsuit settlements over the past three years.
Segue Construction and a sub-contractor, R. Bros, are co-operating with a City of Berkeley investigation into precisely what caused the tragedy.
The company expressed its sympathy to the families of the 13 students killed and injured in the tragedy. Segue insists that the Berkeley incident was totally unconnected to claims that it had settled in San Jose and Millbrae.
A spokesperson said, “Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the young people who died or were injured in this tragic accident.”
They called this incident “unique.”
The Herald newspaper in Dublin reports that the $26+ million paid out by Segue includes:
- Park Broadway complex, Millbrae – $3.5m paid in 2012.
- The Pines complex, San Jose – $14m paid out with relation to two different apartment complex lawsuits in 2013.
- Cherry Orchard complex, Sunnyvale – $9m paid in 2012.
- Colma, San Francisco – a lawsuit is ongoing and unresolved.