Berkeley balcony victims: Statements from families
‘The most important thing ... is that something like this doesn’t happen again’
The students who were killed when the balcony collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, California, in June 2015 were, (top left to right) Ashley Donohoe, Eoghan Culligan, Olivia Burke, and bottom, (left to right) Nick Schuster, Eimear Walsh and Lorcan Miller.
The family of Ashley Donohoe (above), of Rohnert Park, California, who died in the Berkeley collapse, “are disappointed that criminal charges are not being pursued and their feeling is that the whole concept of the criminal law is supposed to act as a deterrent and the most important thing to them is that something like this doesn’t happen again”.
Statement from San Francisco legal firm Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger representing all families affected in balcony collapse, except Ashley Donohoe’s
From the outset, most legal experts did not expect the District Attorney to bring criminal charges given the high burden of proof - beyond a reasonable doubt - that must be met to convict and imprison, as well as the likelihood that more than one person’s misconduct over a 10-year period caused the collapse.
Nevertheless, her office thoroughly and carefully investigated the case for eight months before she made this decision, and the work product of that investigation will benefit the bereaved families and injured students as they now prosecute their civil lawsuits in ernest.
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.
The Donohoe family are very appreciative of the extensive work that the district attorney did and the fact that they were willing to jump in and ensure that a proper investigation was done following the decision by others not [to] pursue it.
They are disappointed that criminal charges are not being pursued and their feeling is that the whole concept of the criminal law is supposed to act as a deterrent and the most important thing to them is that something like this doesn’t happen again.
The fact that the criminal law appears to have been unable to do this shows that it is set up in a way to make it very difficult to bring charges against a corporation in a situation like this. They feel that is more a failure of the system than anything else.
Their fear is that if there is no deterrent, there will continue to be similar types of accidents that will occur in the future.
They are concerned that not only is our system unable to punish people who appear to have done something wrong but that there are secret settlements done confidentially so people are not aware when people are doing dangerous work that can lead to catastrophic failures like this, be it balconies or other types of structure.