Monday 19 March 2018

Berkeley tragedy: Ashley's parents unhappy with recommendations

Ashley Donohoe
Ashley Donohoe
The family’s lawyers indicated that the dry rot fungus can take hold as quickly as 12 weeks and cause damage in under a year.
The collapsed balcony from which the 13 students fell
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
Olivia Burke
Lorcan Miller
Niccolai Schuster
Eoghan Culligan
Eimear Walsh Newsdesk Newsdesk

City of Berkeley building inspectors have made a series of recommendations to prevent a tragedy such as the balcony collapse last month ever happening again.

The inspectors recommended that all exterior, elevated wooden balconies, or any parts of those balconies exposed to weather, be inspected within six months and then every five years by a builder, engineer, architect or structural pest control licensee, the Irish Times reports.

The inspections should rule out “hazardous dry rot, fungus, deterioration, decay, or improper alternation” and determine that the balconies are safe, the inspectors said.

George and Jackie Donohoe, who lost their daughter Ashley (22) and niece Olivia Burke (21), wrote to city officials on Friday through their lawyers Rains Lucia Stern, raising concerns about the recommendations put forward by inspectors in the week after the tragedy on June 16.

“The City of Berkeley must take all measures to ensure this does not happen again,” the lawyers wrote.

The couple said the recommendation for inspectors to check the balconies every five years as “completely inadequate” and instead they want maintenance inspections “at least once a year”.

The parents believe that if the balcony in the Library Gardens building had been inspected within five years of it being built in 2007, the dry rot would have been discovered and “red-tagged” long before this year.

The Donohoe letter was sent ahead of a Berkeley City Council meeting today when they will vote on the recommendations by the building inspections staff.

The letter was sent to Berkeley mayor Tom Bates and officials including city manager Christine Daniel, deputy city manager Dee Williams-Ridley and the city attorney Zach Cowan.

“Using a five-year period of inspections almost gives you an appearance that City of Berkeley officials will be more concerned about what the building owners and building contractors are worried about than the public safety,” said the family’s lawyers.

“If the City of Berkeley wants to prevent another tragedy, these required maintenance inspections should be done, at a minimum, every year.”

The family’s lawyers indicated that the dry rot fungus can take hold as quickly as 12 weeks and cause damage in under a year.

A spokesperson for the city said the council will vote on stricter requirements on materials used in balconies, and on increased ventilation of and access to balconies to identify and prevent dry rot, the Irish Times reports.

Four other students Eimear Walsh (21), Eoghan Culligan (21), Niccolai Schuster (21) and Lorcan Miller (21), were also killed in the tragedy.

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