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Irish student at Berkeley party said balcony was 'sloping downwards' before tragic collapse

Lawyers for parents of Ashley Donohue present own evidence to DA

Published 26/06/2015 | 08:03

Ashley Donohue
Ashley Donohue

The parents of one of the students tragically killed in Berkeley sent legal letters amid concerns that the initial investigation into the balcony collapse may not have been fully independent.

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Lawyers representing the parents of Ashley Donohue (22) have been in touch with the owners of Library Gardens, the apartment complex where the accident occurred ten days ago, the Irish Times reports this morning.

George and Jackie Donohue called for evidence from the scene to be preserved and analysed in an impartial manner as little as three days after the accident. Alameda district attorney Nancy O'Malley was asked to present their initial findings to the grieving couple's lawyers, based in San Francisco firm Rains Lucia Stern.

Read more: Final Berkeley funeral: Extrovert Lorcán 'threw everything he had into everything he did' - Dad

The remaining wood from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony that collapsed is shown in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, June 17, 2015. The balcony broke loose from the building during a 21st birthday party early Tuesday, killing several people and seriously injuring others. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
The remaining wood from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony that collapsed is shown in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, June 17, 2015. The balcony broke loose from the building during a 21st birthday party early Tuesday, killing several people and seriously injuring others. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A worker measures near the remaining wood from an apartment building balcony that collapsed in Berkeley
The balcony in Berkeley that collapsed

In turn, the law firm presented their own evidence to the DA, which included a statement from an Irish student who attended the party that night. This witness has said that the balcony was actually sloping downwards towards the street before it collapsed.

Other evidence presented to the DA's office included photographs demonstrating water damage to the balcony dating back to 2008 and complaints of rot, leaks and flooding as little as three months ago. 

Ms O'Malley has since confirmed that a new criminal investigation into the tragedy has been launched, a development that one of the partners at the law firm, Harry Stern, has described as "a step in the right direction".

Addressing the families directly, Ms O'Malley said: "Each of you deserve to have this matter thoroughly and exhaustively investigated. We will do so. That is the pledge I make from my office."

Lorcan Miller
Lorcan Miller
Olivia Burke
Eimear Walsh
Ashley Donohue
Eoghan Culligan - Age: 21 From: Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 School: St Mary’s College, Rathmines Studying: Logistics, DIT
Niccolai Schuster (right)

Ms O'Malley has denied that pressure from the Irish community lead to the launch of this formal investigation following the announcement from local authorities that their involvement was over.

Her office confirmed that although they received a large amount of correspondence from members of the Irish community, they stressed that there had been "no pressure" to open a formal investigation because of this.

Read more: Legal rights campaigner Erin Brockovich offers to help families

The new probe follows a City of Berkeley engineering investigation which found that the eight timber support beams of the fourth-storey balcony failed due to "severe dry rot".

A follow up letter from the law firm was sent to the property's management company Blackrock, Greystar mere hours after this conclusion. 

The US construction firm and waterproofing sub-contractor who worked on the balcony will be interviewed as part of the probe, which will determine whether criminal charges or a civil consumer protection action are warranted.

According to the Irish Times, Blackrock have responded to the Donohues' lawyers saying that they will co-operate fully with all investigations and that they would continue to carry our demolition and repair works next month.

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