Saturday 10 December 2016

Berkeley balcony collapse: Contractors who worked on apartment face losing licenses

Published 09/04/2016 | 14:43

The six students who lost their lives in the tragic accident, top left to bottom right: Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Ashley Donohoe, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke
The six students who lost their lives in the tragic accident, top left to bottom right: Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Ashley Donohoe, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke

Five contractors who worked on the Berkeley building where six students died face losing their state licenses - a watchdog agency has announced.

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The Contractors State License Board found that "poor workmanship" in the waterproofing of the balcony resulted in water damage that caused it to rot and eventually collapse.

"They didn't do the work (on the balcony) to trade standards," said Dave Fogt, the board's chief of enforcement, on Friday.

The collapse was caused "definitely by water incursion that caused dry rot."

The scene of the Berkeley balcony tragedy which claimed the lives of six young Irish students: Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, and Eimear Walsh. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
The scene of the Berkeley balcony tragedy which claimed the lives of six young Irish students: Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, and Eimear Walsh. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

The five Irish students who died were all from south Dublin - medical students and friends Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh; Olivia Burke, who went to school with Eimear; Niccolai Schuster, who was at the same college as Lorcan and Eimear, and his friend from school Eoghan Culligan.

Irish-American Ashley Donohoe, who lived in California and was a cousin of Olivia's, also died.

The students were on J1 working visas for the summer in the California city and were among 40 people attending a birthday party when the balcony collapsed.

Collapse

Last week it state prosecutors confirmed that nobody would face criminal charges over the horror collapse.

The companies cited in this latest move include the project's main contractor, Segue Construction of Pleasanton, said Rick Lopes, a spokesman for the license board.

The others are Etter and Sons Construction in Dana Point, R. Brothers Waterproofing in San Jose, North State Plastering in Fairfield and The Energy Store of California in Sacramento.

All declined to comment when contacted by reporters this weekend.

Families of each of the dead, as well as each of the survivors are suing Segue and the other companies.

They claim tenants had complained to managers for weeks that mushrooms were growing on the wooden balcony and that other residents reported a slant in the deck a year before the collapse, but that those warning signs were ignored.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Mike Kelly, wrote in an email Friday that "we are aware of (the state's) current course of action" but declined to discuss it specifically until charges are filed.

He said his clients' primary goals are, "uncovering the truth, publicly identifying the wrongdoers, and holding accountable those responsible for the damage, loss and suffering they have caused."

They also hope to force "changes to residential construction industry practices that will prevent such a needless tragedy from recurring in the future," he said.

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