Berkeley balcony collapse: Timeline of a tragedy

Nine-month investigation by California prosecutor leads to no criminal charges

 

June 16th, 2015

At 12.41am, a fourth-floor balcony at Apartment 405 in the Library Gardens apartment block on Kittredge Street near downtown Berkeley collapses during a 21st birthday party attended by Irish students, most of whom are in the US for a summer working on J1 visas. Thirteen students fall 12 metres to the street below.

The collapse results in the deaths of five Dublin students - Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke - and Ms Burke’s Irish-American cousin Ashley Donohoe, from Rohnert Park, California.

The other seven Irish students - Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters - are gravely injured.

June 23rd

City of Berkeley inspectors conclude that the fourth-floor balcony had badly rotted beams caused by water damage. They recommend changes to make new balconies and other sealed areas exposed to weather in the northern Californian city subject to stricter rules on materials, inspections and ventilation. Berkeley police say they will launch a criminal investigation into the incident.

June 25th

Alameda County district attorney Nancy O’Malley formally opens a criminal investigation into the collapse of the balcony to see if a crime has been committed.

July 14th

Berkeley City Council votes to strengthen building safety rules by requiring property owners to carry out periodic inspections of existing balconies, decks and other weather-exposed exterior structures.

September 22nd

Hannah Waters, the last of the seven students hospitalised with serious injuries after the balcony collapse, returns to Ireland.

October 5-6th

Investigators from the Alameda County district attorney’s office inspect the apartment and the remnants of the collapsed balcony as part of the criminal investigation. The investigators and their expert consultants begin carrying out destructive testing of the collapsed balcony and the balcony beneath it that was removed for safety reasons following the tragedy.

October 28th

President Michael D Higgins visits Berkeley and pays tribute to the city’s emergency first responders who rushed to the scene of the incident.

November 12-13th

Lawyers acting for seven survivors of the balcony collapse and the families of the six who died issue legal proceedings for damages in the California courts against the owner of the apartment block, a subsidiary of the US asset manager Blackrock, builder Segue Construction, manager Greystar and about 30 other companies involved in the construction and maintenance of the 176-apartment property.

They claim the defendants “cut corners” and ignored an “unambiguous ‘red flag’ warning” of dry rot on the balcony: “large mushrooms growing on its surface”.

December 14th

Judge George Hernandez, sitting in the Superior Court of the State of California in Alameda County, ruled that all 13 lawsuits should be combined to speed up court proceedings and save time for the court and litigants.

February 10th, 2016

The City of Berkeley says inspections performed in the city as a result of the balcony collapse find more than 400 buildings need corrective work out of almost 2,200 weather-exposed structures such as balconies, stairways and decks.

March 17th

More than a dozen members of the Berkeley police and fire departments march in the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin.

March 29th

Alameda County district attorney Nancy O’Malley announces that no criminal charges will be brought in connection with the balcony collapse because there is insufficient evidence to bring criminal manslaughter charges against any one individual or company. The families’ civil actions remain before the courts.