City finds collapsed Berkeley balcony had significant dry rot

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A balcony that snapped off an apartment building in Berkeley, which led to the deaths of six college students, was supported by wooden beams damaged by dry rot, according to a city investigation. But the city stopped short of blaming the rotten beams for the accident. (KGO-TV)

A balcony that snapped off a Berkeley apartment building, which led to the deaths of six college students, was supported by wooden beams that had been badly rotted by exposure to moisture according to city officials. They released a report on their investigation on Tuesday.

However, in a summary of the city's investigation, officials stopped short of blaming the rotten beams for the accident last week.

Planning Director Eric Angstadt said Berkeley inspectors were not responsible for determining why the concrete and wood structure collapsed and that no further analysis was planned by the city to pinpoint the cause.

The wooden beams damaged by dry rot that supported the balcony, which collapsed at a Berkeley apartment complex on Tuesday, June 16, 2015.



"We are not making any sort of formal causal determination," Angstadt said. "We don't know and we aren't going to know or determine how moisture got into the assembly."

Instead, the manager of Berkley's Building and Safety Division recommended mandatory inspections of existing multi-story residential buildings, and code changes for new construction to prevent moisture damage to balconies, decks and stairs.

"These are the requirements the building official believes would best minimize the chance of this happening again," Angstadt said.



Beyond asking tougher building regulations, the planning department wants inspections on all balconies of similar buildings within six months and with regular follow-ups.

"I am going to propose that, similar to San Francisco, owners get structural engineers to do inspections every five years," said Angstadt.

When asked how a balcony could collapse on a relatively new and inspected building, Angstadt answered by saying, "This is not a question I can answer."

The recommendations will be presented next month to the Berkeley City Council for consideration. The changes would also need approval by a state commission that oversees construction standards.

PHOTOS: Several killed in balcony collapse in Berkeley


Beyond asking tougher building regulations, the planning department wants inspections on all balconies of similar buildings within six months and with regular follow-ups.

"I am going to propose that, similar to San Francisco, owners get structural engineers to do inspections every five years," said Angstadt.

The inspectors noted that joists that extended from the building to support the balcony were extensively rotted at the place where the structure broke off, flinging 13 young adults attending a 21st birthday party five stories down to the street.

Five of the students who died were from Ireland and working in the San Francisco Bay Area for the summer.

VIDEO: Funeral held for two cousins killed in Berkeley balcony collapse


Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said last week that rotted wooden beams might have caused the collapse. He later said the theory was speculation and a cause had not been officially determined.

Meanwhile, the builder, Segue Construction, has issued this statement to ABC7 News: "Our concern remains for the families and loves ones of those who died in this tragic accident. We are carefully reviewing all findings of the ongoing inquiry, and continue to offer our assistance and cooperation to all investigating authorities."

Segue Construction have settle lawsuits for dry-rotted balconies on condominiums in Millbrae and San Jose.

Along with identifying dry rot in the support beams, inspectors also noted signs of decay involving the 4th floor balcony just below it.

The other two balconies in the 176-unit Library Gardens complex were built differently and showed no signs of damage, they said.

Trevor Martin, a spokesman for building contractor Segue Construction, issued a statement saying the company is reviewing the findings.

Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh, all 21-year-olds from Ireland, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park, California, were killed June 16 when the balcony fell during a birthday party.

The seven other people on the balcony remained hospitalized. Of them, Jack Halpin and Conner Flynn are now both listed as in fair condition. The two men remain at John Muir Medical Center.

In Dublin, Ireland, a large crowd gathered on Tuesday for the funerals of Eimear Walsh and Eoghan Culligan.

Walsh's father says her passing leaves an incredible hole in their lives, but he knows she would want them to be strong. Culligan's older brothers say they looked to him for wisdom. They add, Owen was their sense-maker and peace-maker.

Click here to find out how you can support the Irish students currently in Berkeley during this difficult time.

Click here for a GoFundMe account for families of the Berkeley balcony collapse.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related Topics:
berkeley balcony collapseinvestigationstudentspoliceconstructionwater damagecollapseunstable buildingapartmentvigilaccidentcollegememorialfuneralbay areanorthern californiacaliforniaBerkeleySan Francisco
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