Category Archives: Fire

As students recover in hospitals, support grows for survivors and victims of Berkeley balcony collapse

A note and flowers left in memory of the victims of a deadly balcony collapse at the Library Gardens Apartments lie on the sidewalk on Kittredge Street, near Miliva Street, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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By Francesca Paris and Eden Teller

As the bodies of the Irish students killed in the recent balcony collapse accident in Berkeley were being prepared for repatriation back to Ireland, the seven students injured in the accident continued to recover in several Bay Area hospitals.

Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters are being treated at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for injuries sustained when they plummeted from the fifth-floor balcony that snapped off the Library Gardens apartment building at 2020 Kittredge St.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The victims were celebrating Beary’s 21st birthday when the accident happened at around 12:40 a.m. Tuesday.

Father Aidan McAleenan, an Irish pastor at Oakland’s Saint Columba Catholic Church, has been providing support for the families of the victims and has visited the injured students in the hospital. … Continue reading »

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Coroner releases autopsy results on balcony victims; first responders sought help for shock, stress

Irish Consul General Philip Grant praised the first responders for their compassion. Photo: David Yee
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The six young people who fell to their deaths Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley died of multiple blunt injuries, the Alameda County coroner’s office said Thursday.

Four of the youth died from “multiple blunt injuries,” one died of “blunt trauma to the head and brain,” and one died of “multiple blunt traumatic injuries,” according to a coroner’s spokeswoman. But the varied designations are just the way the different coroners described the injuries, she said.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The six students who died, and the seven who were seriously injured in the collapse, fell about 48 feet to the street below. Four were pronounced dead at the scene and two died later. They were Ashley Donohoe, 22, from Rohnert Park; and Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller, all 21 years old and from Ireland. … Continue reading »

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City posts documents from balcony collapse property

Remnants of beams from removed balconies show contrast between the condition of the wood from the collapsed balcony and the balcony it fell upon at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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By Emilie Raguso and Frances Dinkelspiel

Two days after a deadly balcony collapse in downtown Berkeley killed six and injured seven others, city officials have released a slew of planning documents related to the apartment complex where the tragedy took place.

The city of Berkeley has been doing its own investigation into what went wrong at 2020 Kittredge St., where a fifth floor balcony broke off a top-floor unit at Library Gardens, an apartment building that was completed less than a decade ago. That inquiry most likely won’t be completed in the next few days, said Matthai Chakko, city spokesman. Building officials are examining the plans for Library Gardens, how those plans were executed and what has happened since the building was completed, he said.

“What were the factors that went into the failure?” said Chakko. “We don’t know what happened at what point that led to failure.”

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Experts who have reviewed photographs and documents from the accident have said wood rot appears likely to have played a significant role in the collapse. Segue Construction Inc., the company that built Library Gardens, has been sued multiple times in recent years in relation to problems with waterproofing and the resulting property damage.

As part of the city of Berkeley’s investigation, officials have been working to make planning documents related to the Kittredge Street property accessible to those who are interested. … Continue reading »

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Firm that built Berkeley complex has been fined, sued

Two balconies were removed from Library Gardens after a deadly accident Tuesday. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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In a series of stories, Berkeleyside examines the building where six people died and seven were seriously injured Tuesday after a balcony collapsed. Part 1 looks at a history of complaints by residents, Part 2 examines potential issues surrounding the balcony construction, and Part 3, below, looks at some of the issues faced by the company that built the apartment complex where Tuesday’s tragedy took place.

The construction company that built the apartment complex in downtown Berkeley where a fifth-floor balcony collapsed Tuesday during a birthday party, killing six and injuring seven, has been fined and sued in connection with its work in other locations, according to documents reviewed by Berkeleyside.

But Sam Singer, a spokesman for Pleasanton-based Segue Construction Inc., said Wednesday that the company has a long track record of safety and quality, and that lawsuits are “commonplace” in the construction industry.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Singer also said safety-related fines assessed of Segue have been minimal, and that the company has been sued just once in relation to balcony work and water issues. That lawsuit, which related to a San Jose apartment complex, involved balconies Singer described as very different in design from the Berkeley balcony, at the 176-unit Library Gardens apartment complex, that collapsed Tuesday, with deadly consequences. Segue reportedly settled that case for $3 million.

As it turns out, however, there was also a $3.5 million settlement after a neighborhood association filed a lawsuit in Millbrae in 2013 related to waterproofing and wood rot. And, that same year, Trestle Glen Associates, in Colma, filed a breach of contract lawsuit, still underway, against Segue related to “water intrusion causing tangible property damage.” … Continue reading »

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Support springs up for families, friends of deceased

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Update, 10:15 a.m. 6/18: The Irish Immigration Pastoral Center has set up a relief fund for the students and families affected by the balcony collapse. At the time of the update, the they had raised $65,805 to help the immediate needs of the families and students in Berkeley. Click here to donate.

Original story: A day after a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, killing six students and injuring seven others, both the Irish and the Berkeley communities are rallying to support the families and friends of those who died.

The initiatives range from those being organized by government bodies to others orchestrated by local businesses.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the collapse.

Al Lasher’s Electronics in Berkeley is taking donations for the Irish exchange students and their families, said Melissa Lasher in an email to Berkeleyside. Lasher’s family is a part of the local Irish community, and Lasher plays Gaelic football with the local team, Clan na Gael.
Continue reading »

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As Berkeley orders removal of second balcony, questions over quality of construction at Library Gardens

Remnants of beams from removed balconies show contrast between the condition of the wood from the collapsed balcony and the balcony it fell upon at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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In a series of stories, Berkeleyside examines the building where six people died and seven were seriously injured Tuesday after a balcony collapsed. Part 1 looks at a history of complaints by residents, Part 2, below, examines potential issues surrounding the balcony construction, and Part 3 looks at some of the issues faced by the company that built the apartment complex where Tuesday’s tragedy took place.

Crews planned to take down another balcony at Library Gardens on Wednesday, after the city of Berkeley on Tuesday ordered it to be removed. Inspectors determined that the fourth-floor balcony “was structurally unsafe and presented a collapse hazard endangering public safety.”

The small balcony is directly underneath the fifth-floor balcony that collapsed early Tuesday, sending six young college students to their deaths. The fifth-floor balcony was removed Tuesday for analysis by the city. (Initially the city said the failed balcony was on the fourth floor, but later revised this description.)

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The removal was done on behalf of the owners of the 176-unit complex. Other balconies in the building have been red-tagged, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko.

The finding that yet another balcony in Library Gardens may have been in danger of collapsing is focusing attention on the quality of the construction of the complex, which was built from 2005 to 2007 by TransAction Companies, designed by Thomas. P. Cox Architects of Irvine. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley building under scrutiny before balcony collapse

The upper of two balconies collapsed earlier this morning in Berkeley. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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In a series of stories, Berkeleyside examines the building where six people died and seven were seriously injured Tuesday after a balcony collapsed. Part 1, below, looks at a history of complaints by residents. Part 2 examines potential issues surrounding the balcony construction, and Part 3 looks at some of the issues faced by the company that built the apartment complex where Tuesday’s tragedy took place.

The downtown Berkeley property at 2020 Kittredge St. where a balcony collapsed early Tuesday morning killing six students — five from Ireland — and injuring seven others, was the subject of complaints by many of its tenants.

The property, called Library Gardens, was built from 2005 to 2007 and underwent numerous inspections during construction (to see the property’s inspection history, click here).

Since its completion, city building officials have mainly inspected its tenant improvements rather than its structural integrity. Due to the balcony collapse, the city of Berkeley has ordered the owner to evaluate the building’s integrity and will be performing its own independent inspection. … Continue reading »

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Mayor, consul general, lay wreaths to honor 6 killed in Berkeley balcony collapse

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and the consul general of Ireland for the Western United States, Philip Grant, lay wreaths at the site of a deadly balcony collapse in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at around 6 p.m.. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early morning accident. Looking on are Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong (far left), Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan and City Manager Christine Daniel (to the left of Mayor Bates). Photo: David Yee
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A difficult day for Berkeley came to a close wrapped in the mournful tones of a single bagpipe as Berkeley’s mayor and Ireland’s San Francisco-based consul general laid two wreaths at the site of a tragic balcony collapse.

A fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St. collapsed early Tuesday morning, plunging five Irish students and one Irish-American to their deaths and causing serious and critical injuries to seven others. What was left of the malfunctioning balcony was removed Tuesday afternoon, and an order was issued to assess the structural integrity of the building’s remaining balconies within the next two days.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the collapse.

Philip Grant, the consul general of Ireland to the Western United States, organized the wreath-laying ceremony that took place around 6 p.m. Grant, arriving late due to traffic, was escorted to the scene of the accident by Berkeley police officers, as well as Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley orders balcony removal after tragedy kills 6

Students outside Tuesday's balcony collapse in Berkeley struggled to make sense of the tragedy that killed at least six Irish students. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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The city of Berkeley has ordered the property owner of a downtown apartment complex to remove a balcony that collapsed early Tuesday, killing six, and follow up with a structural assessment of the remaining balconies on the property within the next two days.

In a statement released at 11:30 a.m., city spokesman Matthai Chakko reported that building inspectors visited 2020 Kittredge St., between Milvia Street and Shattuck Avenue, early Tuesday morning to examine the scene at Library Gardens. The complex has two separate buildings with about 160 one- and two-bedroom units.

See complete coverage of the balcony collapse.

Authorities received reports beginning at 12:40 a.m. regarding a fifth-floor balcony that had collapsed in the apartment complex. (Editor’s note: Initially authorities said the balcony was on the fourth floor, because it was on the fourth residential story in the building.) There have been six confirmed fatalities of young people from Ireland reported to be living in the Bay Area for the summer. Seven others were critically injured.

The people who were injured were taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital in Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, and John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. The city has not released the names of those who were killed or injured “Due to privacy concerns.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley balcony collapse leaves 6 people dead

An injured person is placed into an ambulance at the scene of a balcony collapse at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, early Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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A fifth-floor balcony at an apartment complex in downtown Berkeley collapsed early Tuesday morning, sending six Irish students to their deaths and injuring seven others critically.

The balcony, at Library Gardens, collapsed around 12:40 a.m. according to Officer Ethell Wilson, a spokesman for the Berkeley Police Department. Police had received a call about a loud party at that address, at 2020 Kittredge St., around midnight, he said. (Note: Initially authorities said the balcony was on the fourth floor, because it was on the fourth residential story in the building. They later reported the balcony was on the fifth story.)

As many as 13 people may have been on the balcony when it collapsed. Four were declared dead at the scene and one died later, according to Wilson. A sixth was reported dead shortly after 7:30 a.m. Seven others are in serious or critical condition at area hospitals, said Wilson.

See complete coverage of the balcony collapse.

The city of Berkeley has red tagged the three other balconies in the 9-year-old building as a safety precaution, according to Berkeley Police Officer Byron White. Berkeley has ordered the property owner to remove the damaged balcony and do a structural inspection of the other balconies within 48 hours.

As of about 10:30 a.m., the Alameda County coroner’s office said names of the deceased victims have not yet been released, but authorities plan to release additional information at 1 p.m. at a press conference at the Public Safety Building.

The balcony appears to have been constructed to hold 13 people at one time, so its collapse was probably caused by water damage, said Gene St. Onge, an Oakland civil and structural engineer who is basing his assessment on pictures he has seen of the balcony. “All water has to do is get in there and start seeping into the joint and into the wall,” said St. Onge. “In a short time it can rot the wood, which can give away.”

Continue reading »

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Three injured in early-morning fire in Southside Berkeley

A resident walks out of an apartment building at 2510 Regent St., where a two-alarm fire struck shortly before 3:00 a.m. in Berkeley, on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Three people were injured and several had to be rescued by firefighters. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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Three people were taken to the hospital, and firefighters had to rescue several tenants from an apartment building, after a fire broke out in Southside Berkeley early in the morning of Sunday, May 31.

According to Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong, a fire at 2510 Regent St. (at Dwight Way) was called in at 2:54 a.m. While firefighters were en route to the incident, reports came in that occupants were jumping from a balcony with people still inside the building, Chief Dong said. On arrival, the response was upgraded to a two-alarm fire.

Once on scene, crews had to deal with heavy fire and smoke coming out a third-story apartment unit balcony, Dong said. There was fire lapping up to the fourth floor, and three of the building’s occupants were injured, he continued. They were transported to the Bothin Burn Center at the Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, and to Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Fire

Berkeley authorities respond to fire near Ashby, I-80

Photo: Kester Allen
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Update, 4:20 p.m. Berkeley Fire Department Battalion Chief Paul Cavagnaro said the fire in Berkeley on Friday was confined to a 20-by-20-foot area of “pretty thick brush” in the midst of numerous homeless encampments where Bay Street goes over Ashby Avenue near the freeway.

Firefighters were dispatched to the area at 1:16 p.m., and Cavagnaro said the fire was likely out by around 1:30 p.m. There were no injuries.

Cavagnaro said that, despite an initial report that it may have been arson, no one witnessed anyone set anything on fire. He said many homeless people live in the area on both sides of the freeway, but that it’s difficult to estimate how many because the camps are “joined together.”

“We’re not sure how many people are living in the bushes,” he said.

Update, 3:55 p.m. Berkeley Police Lt. Alyson Hart said the fire was limited to property damage at two homeless camps. She said the fire may have been either arson or an accident, and that no one is in custody. Berkeleyside will follow up with the Berkeley Fire Department for additional information.

Original story, 1:50 p.m. Berkeley authorities are responding to a fire near Ashby Avenue and Interstate 80, which is backing up traffic in the area.

Community members in West Berkeley reported the smell of smoke and the sound of loud firetrucks just before 1:30 p.m. near Ashby and Ninth Street. … Continue reading »

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Fire at Giovanni’s restaurant causes $100K damage

Firefighters use a ladder to access the roof of Giovanni's restaurant at 2420 Shattuck Ave. today after a fire broke out around 6 a.m. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A fire that broke out early this morning at Giovanni’s restaurant in downtown Berkeley caused an estimated $100,000 worth of damage, according to Berkeley Fire Department’s Deputy Chief Avery Webb.

The fire department had to open up walls, as well as the roof of the building at 2420 Shattuck Ave., as the fire was concentrated in concealed spaces, Webb said.

The southbound section of Shattuck Avenue between Channing and Haste was closed for about one and a half hours while the first-alarm fire was being tackled. … Continue reading »

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