Friday 15 December 2017

Hundreds of balconies in Berkeley need repairs following deadly collapse

The collapsed balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley Credit: AP
The collapsed balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley Credit: AP

David Kearns

Some 400 buildings with balconies are in need of ‘serious’ repairs in Berkeley, according to new mandatory inspections introduced after five Irish J1 students were killed last June.

A new report by the Berkeley housing authority found that of the city’s 2,200 buildings with "weather-exposed elements", 402 needed to undergo repairs.

The Exterior Elevated Elements (E3) Programme came into effect one month after a balcony collapse at a 21st birthday party in the city that claimed the lives of Irish students Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, and Eimear Walsh.

Read More: 'It didn't look real' - police recall horror of Berkeley scene

Also killed was Ashley Donohue, an Irish-American cousin of Ms Burke.

Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray, and Hannah Waters survived the collapse but suffered a number of serious injuries.

Following the deadly balcony collapse, the City of Berkeley introduced the new mandatory inspections so that the tragedy would not be repeated.

The families of those killed and injured are currently suing 35 companies through the California courts for damages as a result of the tragedy.

Read More: Grief, guilt still raw in the wake of Berkeley balcony collapse

Separately the Alameda County District Attorney is carrying out a criminal investigation.

According to the housing authority report, 402 of the buildings inspected had suffered enough moisture or water damage to “raised significant safety concerns”.

It noted however that some 28 pc of the city's multi-unit building owners did not respond to requests to carry out inspections, so that the number of water-damaged exterior elements, such as balconies, stairs, decks and so on, could be “much higher”.

Read More: US legal proceedings are expected to continue for months

The mandatory inspections are part of a three-pronged approach to improve safety, along with new restrictions on building design, and new specifications for building materials that were less likely to retain moisture.

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