A fourth floor balcony of a luxury apartment building collapsed just before 12:40 a.m. on Tuesday in downtown Berkeley, sending 13 people falling 40 feet to the sidewalk below. The balcony collapse killed six people, and critically injured seven others.
Some of the victims, all believed to be in their 20s, were Irish students visiting the United States on temporary work visas. The young people were at the Library Gardens apartment complex celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday, according to the authorities.
Cause of Collapse Under Investigation
The authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the deadly balcony collapse. At least one other balcony at the apartment complex has been red-tagged out of concern that it may not be structurally sound, and that it may pose a safety risk.
Gene St. Onge, an Oakland civil and structural engineer, examined a picture of the collapsed balcony at the request of the San Francisco Chronicle. While he stressed that his assessment was preliminary, St. Onge said that there appears to be inadequate waterproofing where the deck meets the house.
He said that if the waterproofing is substandard, rainwater can enter the building and cause dry rot, which can destroy the wood – and this can happen within a few years after construction.
The stucco structure was built in 2006. With the balcony detached from the building, insulation and shredded wood are clearly visible where the balcony was attached.
Was the balcony safe?
No balcony should collapse, particularly one that was constructed less than ten years ago. Whether the cause of the collapse was substandard waterproofing, another construction defect, or if the builder cut corners at the cost of public safety, any form of negligent construction places the public at risk and is unacceptable.
In the case of the collapsed balcony, depending on the results of the pending investigation, a premises liability claim against at-fault parties may include the property owner, the general contractors, developers, or builders of the apartment structure.
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