Berkeley balcony collapse

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Berkeley balcony collapse
Date June 16, 2015
Location Berkeley, California, United States
Deaths 6
Non-fatal injuries 7

On June 16, 2015, shortly after midnight, five Irish J-1 visa students and one Irish-American died and seven others were injured after a balcony on which they were standing collapsed.[1] The group was celebrating a 21st birthday party in Berkeley, California. The balcony was located on the 5th floor of an apartment building at 2020 Kittredge Street in Berkeley, then called Library Gardens. The district attorney of Alameda County launched a criminal probe into the incident.[2]

In June 2015, Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley promised a broad and wide ranging investigation into the cause of the accident with the likely cause being that the balcony of the building was not constructed properly leading to dry rot developing, leading to the balcony to become structurally compromised. Overwhelming evidence points to dry rot as having caused the collapse, and not the weight of the 13 students on it at the time.

2020 Kittredge Street today. The collapsed balconies were located in the area inside the red box.

Details[edit]

One of the six killed was a dual Irish-American citizen, Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park, California. The five others were Olivia Burke (Donohue’s cousin), Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai “Nick” Schuster, Lorcán Miller and Eimear Walsh, all aged 21 and from Dublin, Ireland.[3]

The New York Times published an article reporting the deaths and suggested the deceased were to blame for the collapse. The paper stated that “the work-visa program that allowed for the exchanges has in recent years become not just a source of aspiration, but also a source of embarrassment for Ireland”.[4] Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former President Mary McAleese criticised the newspaper for "being insensitive and inaccurate" in its handling of the story.”[citation needed][fix quote marks] The newspaper subsequently apologized, with the article still available at its website.[5]

The Irish Daily Star and Irish Examiner newspapers published an image of a body bag lying on the ground, prompting a Galway newsagent to remove the two papers as a protest.[6]

Investigation[edit]

Alameda County prosecutors opened up an investigation in the accident on June 25. They stated that involuntary manslaughter could be filed against someone.[7] On that day, District Attorney Nancy O'Malley denied that pressure from the Irish community led to the collapse inquiry. Rumour had spread that because they said their involvement was over the Irish had pressured them into a new inquiry. They also said that they were looking into previous lawsuits against the complex. They yet declined to comment.

On July 3, 2015, the Alameda County Superior Court rejected a restraining order bid by Segue Builders, a construction company, against the examination of evidence. D.A. O’Malley had argued the granting of a restraining order would amount to an interference in her duty to investigate the tragedy.[8]

Funerals[edit]

A joint funeral service for Olivia Burke and her cousin Ashley Donohoe took place on June 20, four days after the collapse, in a church in Cotati in California. Funeral services were held in Dublin for the other victims.[9]

Litigation[edit]

In December 2015, a court was told that the collapse happened because contractors cut corners to save costs. It is said the management company for the building, Greystar, ignored a "red flag" when students who rented the apartment complained about the presence of mushrooms growing on the balcony. Legal cases by some of the victims were set to be combined and heard together. By the end of 2017, it was reported that most of the lawsuits had been settled. [10] [11]

References[edit]