Berkeley balcony collapse
|Date||June 16, 2015|
|Location||Berkeley, California, U.S.|
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 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 January 2022, one of the injured died after suffering a stroke related to the injuries.
In June 2015 Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley promised a wide-ranging investigation into the cause of the accident. Considered the likeliest cause is that the balcony of the building was not constructed properly, leading to dry rot, leading to the balcony becoming structurally compromised. Overwhelming evidence points to dry rot causing the collapse, and not the weight of the 13 students on it at the time.
Six people died in the immediate aftermath of the collapse. They were identified as 22-year-old Ashley Donohoe, and Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai "Nick" Schuster, Lorcán Miller and Eimear Walsh, all aged 21. All six were Irish and from Dublin. On 2 January 2022, survivor Aoife Beary died of a stroke after suffering life-changing injuries sustained in the collapse.
Alameda County prosecutors opened up an investigation in the accident on June 25. They stated that involuntary manslaughter charges could be filed. On that day, District Attorney Nancy O'Malley denied that pressure from the Irish community led to the collapse inquiry. 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. O'Malley had argued the granting of a restraining order would interfere with 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, 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, and that the management company for the building, Greystar Real Estate Partners, ignored a "red flag" when students who rented the apartment complained about 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.
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