Berkeley balcony collapse
|Date||June 16, 2015|
|Location||Berkeley, California, United States|
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. 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.
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.
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.
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". Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former President Mary McAleese criticised the newspaper for "being insensitive and inaccurate" in its handling of the story."[fix quote marks] The newspaper subsequently apologized, with the article still available at its website.
Alameda County prosecutors opened up an investigation in the accident on June 25. They stated that involuntary manslaughter could be filed against someone. 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.
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.
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 Real Estate Partners, 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.
- "Six Irish students killed and six seriously injured in California balcony collapse". evoke.ie. 16 June 2015.
- "Alameda County DA's office to lead criminal probe into Berkeley balcony collapse". mercurynews.com. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- Rodriguez, Olga. “Cousins killed in Berkeley balcony collapse had twin bond”. Yahoo News. 20 June 2015.
- Nagourney, Adam; Smith, Mitch; Hardy, Quentin (June 16, 2015). "Deaths of Irish Students in Berkeley Balcony Collapse Cast Pall on Program". The New York Times.
- "The ‘New York Times’ apology was a sorry attempt to right a wrong". Irish Examiner. 22 June 2015.
- "Galway newsagent removed two papers from shelves in protest of ‘insensitive’ Berkeley images". TheJournal.ie. 17 June 2015.
- Elias, Paul. “Prosecutor: Balcony collapse could bring manslaughter charges”. Yahoo News. 25 June 2015.
- "Court rejects restraining order bid over Berkeley". RTÉ News. 2 July 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
- "Berkeley victims remembered at Dublin funerals". Irish Examiner. 24 June 2015.