Tag Archives: Berkeley fatality

Irish Consul General Philip Grant: As balcony collapse victims begin journey of recovery, J-1 visa student community a source of ‘great pride’

Philip Grant, the consul general of Ireland to the Western United States, speaks to members of the media at Library Gardens Apartments in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured when a balcony collapsed at the building early Tuesday. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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Nine days after the fifth-floor balcony collapse that killed six students and injured seven in Berkeley, Berkeleyside sat down with Philip Grant, consul general of Ireland for the Western United States, at the Irish Consulate in San Francisco to review the response, both local and international, to the tragedy. Grant also discussed the status of the students who survived.

Grant has been intimately involved in the aftermath of the June 16 accident from the get-go: co-hosting a press conference with the city of Berkeley 12 hours after it happened and liaising closely with the families of victims, as well as the media. Thursday, he appeared tired from the intensity of the last week and a half, and his work continues; during the interview, he excused himself once to take a brief phone call, and kept his phone out throughout the discussion in case of urgent updates.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Speaking Thursday, Grant said he had been hugely impressed with the spirit and resilience of the J-1 student community in the Bay Area (five of the six who died were on J-1 work-study cultural visas). The program has been described as a right of passage and chance to experience America for many Irish students. Grant praised the compassion of the local medical teams who cared for the students, from the moment first responders reached the site, as well as those who offered aid to the survivors in the hospital. … Continue reading »

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DA launches criminal investigation into balcony collapse

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley (center) with office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick (right) and Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Alameda County district attorney’s office has launched a criminal investigation into the balcony collapse in Berkeley last week that killed six and injured seven, leaving many of the survivors with critical injuries.

District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced the investigation on Wednesday, and provided additional information about it to the media Thursday morning at a press conference in her office.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Tuesday, the city of Berkeley said it had completed its investigation into the balcony collapse at Library Gardens, and released a report that identified dry rot as the only contributing factor into what caused the collapse last Tuesday, June 16. The city also announced that it would propose changes to its building code to ensure safer conditions in the future.

The city said it did not intend to look at what might have led to the water damage. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said Wednesday that the city’s focus had been to find ways to keep the same problems from recurring by improving its approach to oversight and modifying existing requirements. Chakko said the actual cause of the water damage at Library Gardens was likely something that would have to be worked out in the courts.

O’Malley said Thursday that the district attorney’s office had been keeping an eye on what steps the city of Berkeley had taken, and decided Tuesday to launch its own investigation into the possibility of criminal negligence. … Continue reading »

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‘Severely dry rotted’ timber found after Berkeley balcony collapse; city plans to stiffen safety rules

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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Update, June 24, 1 p.m. Teresa Drenick, spokeswoman for the Alameda County district attorney’s office, confirmed Wednesday that the office will be taking a look at the balcony collapse.

“The District Attorney’s Office is reaching out to the city of Berkeley and our office will begin looking at this matter,” Drenick said Wednesday by email. “I have no further details at this point in time.”

Berkeleyside will continue to follow the story.

Original story, June 23, 12:06 p.m. One week after a balcony collapsed at a downtown Berkeley apartment building, killing six and injuring seven, the city says “severely dry rotted” timber contributed to the tragedy.

The city of Berkeley found rotting timber in two balconies, and had both of them removed last week. The two other balconies at the complex showed no signs of decay, and were allowed to remain in place.

Tuesday morning, the city released the findings of its investigation into the June 16 accident at Library Gardens, at 2020 Kittredge St., that caused a fifth-floor balcony to break off the apartment building during a birthday celebration, sending 13 people to the ground nearly 50 feet below.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

“Among other observations, City inspectors noted that the deck joist ends protruding from the exterior wall appeared to be severely dry rotted,” the city said in a prepared statement.

City staff said that, as a result of the accident, the Berkeley City Council will now consider the adoption of new and modified regulations to improve safety in multifamily buildings throughout the city. … Continue reading »

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Church services held for balcony collapse victims

People comfort each other at a vigil at St. Columba Catholic Church in Oakland, on Friday, June 19, 2015, for the victims of Tuesday's balcony collapse in Berkeley. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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By Tracey Taylor and Francesca Paris

The Consul General of Ireland coordinated a church service Friday evening in collaboration with a local priest to remember four of the young college students who lost their lives as a result of a balcony collapse on June 16 in Berkeley.

The service was held at Saint Columba Catholic Church on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, just south of the Berkeley border. It was presided over by Father Aidan McAleenan, who has been working tirelessly over the past few days to provide support for the families of the six students who died, as well as the seven who were injured in the accident.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Friday’s service was for the families and friends of Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller. Services for the other two victims, cousins Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke, were being held Saturday in Sonoma County, where Donohoe lived and attended college. … Continue reading »

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Protesters demand halt on new construction in Berkeley

Anti building protesters. Photo Tracey Taylor
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In the wake of a balcony collapse that killed six Irish students in Berkeley this week, a small group gathered on the steps of City Hall today to ask that the city put a moratorium on commercial construction in Berkeley until it is clear that buildings are being inspected correctly and that codes are being enforced.

Holding placards that read “Safety 1st! No new bldgs,” “Inspections now” and “Berkeley is in mourning,” the seven protesters say that all new construction should be halted until the city can “review its procedures,” according to spokeswoman Margot Smith.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

“Given the level of this tragedy, we have to go forward beyond a perfunctory investigation,” she said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to see that buildings are safe and that they remain safe. We need to see if codes are being enforced.”Continue reading »

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No ‘smoking gun’ in Berkeley balcony design

Reporters from the Associated Press, Bay Area News Group and the San Francisco Chronicle pour over the architectural drawings for Library Gardens in the Berkeley Planning Department on June 18, 2015. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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City of Berkeley officials on Thursday released the architectural and structural renderings used to construct Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St., and there was no “smoking gun” that revealed a design flaw that might have led to Tuesday’s balcony collapse that killed six people and injured seven others.

The design for the balconies and their connection to the building appear to have been done correctly, according to Gene St. Onge, a civil and structural engineer in Oakland who reviewed the drawings.

“There is no question in my mind it was designed properly,” said St. Onge.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The expert hired by the San Francisco Chronicle to review the documents said the balcony that collapsed was designed to hold near two tons – much more than the weight of the 13 people who crowded on it before its collapse. … Continue reading »

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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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At park vigil, cathedral mass, people gather to remember victims of Berkeley balcony collapse

Vigil. Photo: Stephen Hughes/Instagram
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By Emily Dugdale and Tracey Taylor

On Wednesday evening, friends, family members and others who simply wanted to show their respect gathered in a park in Berkeley and a cathedral in Oakland to mourn the deaths of six young students who died after a balcony collapsed at Berkeley’s Library Gardens apartment building in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

At the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, Reverend Jay Matthews, rector of the cathedral, led an hour-long service that included a homily by Father Aidan McAleenan, an Irish pastor at the Saint Columba Catholic Church in Oakland.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Guests filed slowly into the large cathedral, dipping their fingers into the holy water and crossing themselves with eyes cast down. Most sat quietly, or hugged fellow churchgoers, both Irish and American, as they reflected on the tragedy that unfolded early Tuesday morning. … 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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Op-ed: Living beyond the tragedy at Library Gardens

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It is not every morning that one wakes up to hear on the radio that five people were killed in the building you live in. But that is what happened after I woke up on June 16 and heard the report on KCBS that a party on the fourth floor of the Library Gardens Apartments in downtown Berkeley ended when five people died and seven were injured after a balcony they were on collapsed.

While I am traumatized by this tragedy … Continue reading »

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Support springs up for families, friends of deceased

Shrine to use emily d
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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.
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