Saturday 24 March 2018

Review sparked by tragic Berkeley balcony collapse finds more than 800 structures in need of repair

The collapsed balcony after the accident Photo: Mike Beary
The collapsed balcony after the accident Photo: Mike Beary
Workmen at the site in Berkeley in the aftermath of the tragedy Picture: AP
Police tape blocks off a section of Kittredge Street in front the Library Gardens apartment building where balcony collapsed in Berkeley, California (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley survivor Aoife Beary.
Survivor Aoife Beary (right) and her mother Angela at the hearing this week in California on a new bill to make construction safer Picture: AP
Clodagh Cogley
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A review of buildings in Berkeley California, sparked by the tragic death of six Irish students when a balcony collapsed, has found more than 800 structures in need of repair.

The California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) set up a working group after the tragedy occurred at the Library Gardens complex on June 16, 2015, to examine building legislation. 

Five J1 students Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcan Miller, all 21, died after they were thrown four floors to the ground during a friend’s birthday party in the university city of Berkeley. Ms Burke’s cousin, 22-year-old Ashley Donohoe from California, also died in the tragedy.

Students Clodagh Cogley, Aoife Beary , Seán Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters all suffered serious injuries in the accident.

Emergency changes to California building code have now been introduced which address areas of loading, drainage, ventilation and maintenance of “exterior elevated elements”  in state owned buildings. Including hotels, apartments and public schools. The rules cover balconies, exterior stairways, and walkways.

The emergency regulations are designed to “prevent future occurrences by reducing risk factors” according to the CBSC.

They were passed on Friday.

A report prepared by the commission reads:

“If a total of more than 6,000 properties identified as possible candidates for having exterior elevated elements, greater than 800 had a need for repair.”

In a statement issued via the Department of General Services in California Mia Marvelli, Executive Director of the CBSC said she hoped the move would bring some solace.

“California’s building codes serve to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public – the code’s very essence is the protection of life and property from hazards,” she said.

“We are hopeful that today’s action can bring some small solace to the families and friends of the victims of this terrible tragedy.”

The news comes after it emerged that the site of the tragedy has been fully re-branded and is now known as K-Street flats.

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