Berkeley balcony collapse: DA will look at any new evidence in civil case

Announcement comes after DA concludes lack of evidence to bring criminal charges

The district attorney’s office hired an outside company to take the two balconies and placed them side by side in a warehouse where the experts could go over exactly what happened to cause balcony collapse. Photograph: The New York Times

The district attorney’s office hired an outside company to take the two balconies and placed them side by side in a warehouse where the experts could go over exactly what happened to cause balcony collapse. Photograph: The New York Times

 

Alameda County assistant district attorney (DA) Kevin Dunleavy has said that their office will be open to looking at any new evidence that emerges in the civil case being taken by the families of the Berkeley balcony collapse.

Yesterday, Alameda County district attorney Nancy O’Malley announced that her office will not be filing criminal charges in relation to the Berkeley Balcony collapse last June.

After a nine month-month investigation, Ms O’Malley concluded that there was not enough evidence “to bring criminal manslaughter charges against any individual or company".

Five Irish students Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai (Nick) Schuster and Eimear Walsh, all 21 years old, and Ms Burke’s cousin Ashley Donohoe (22) of Rohnert Park, California, died when the fourth-floor balcony they were standing on collapsed during a 21st birthday party in the early hours of June 16th, 2015.

Another seven Irish students - Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey,Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters - who were also on the balcony, were injured in the tragedy at the Library Gardens apartment block on Kittredge Street in downtown Berkeley when they fell 12 metres to the street below.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Dunleavy said that lawyers involved in the civil suit being taken by the families and their experts had been present during “destructive testing” and had access to all results.

“We stayed in close contact with the lawyers handling the civil suit all through this process and we met with the family of one of the girls,” explained Mr Dunleavy.

During the destructive testing phase, he said the district attorney’s office worked with the Contractor State Licence Board of California. They also talked to experts from the California Board of Engineers, the California Board of Architects, along with experts in the fields of structural engineering, waterproofing and architecture.

They also hired an outside company to take the two balconies and placed them side by side in a warehouse where the experts could go over exactly what happened to cause balcony collapse.

“They looked at all materials used, how it was constructed. The experts felt that the cause of the collapse was through water encapsulation. Water was caught there while balcony being built.

“There was a lot of contributory negligence on the part of a variety of different parties. It would be very difficult to say just one company was solely responsible, certainly not any one individual,” said Mr Dunleavy.

Lawyers for 12 of the Berkeley families said most legal experts did not expect criminal charges, given the high burden of proof and the likelihood that more than one person’s misconduct over a 10-year period caused the collapse.

They said the investigation by the district attorney’s office would benefit the civil legal actions for damages taken by the families of the six victims and the seven survivors in the Californian courts.

“It remains our clients’ quest to uncover the truth, to hold those responsible accountable and to bring about changes to industry practices to prevent such a needless tragedy from recurring,” said attorneys Matthew Davis and Richard Schoenberger of San Francisco firm Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, which represents all the Berkeley families except the family of Ashley Donohoe.

The Berkeley families have taken legal cases against Segue Construction, the California contractor that built the apartment block, the property’s owner, a subsidiary of asset management giant Blackrock, and about 30 other companies involved in the construction, design and maintenance of the property.

“We are open to looking at any new evidence that comes forward in the civil case,” said Mr Dunleavy.