Builder of Berkeley balcony collapse complex has licence revoked

Regulator finds firm ‘wilfully departed’ from specifications in work on apartments

The six students who were killed when the balcony collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments in Berkeley, California: (Top left to right) Ashley Donohoe, Eoghan Culligan, Olivia Burke. (Bottom left to right) Nick Schuster, Eimear Walsh, and Lorcan Miller.

The six students who were killed when the balcony collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments in Berkeley, California: (Top left to right) Ashley Donohoe, Eoghan Culligan, Olivia Burke. (Bottom left to right) Nick Schuster, Eimear Walsh, and Lorcan Miller.

 

The US construction firm which built the apartments in Berkeley, California where five Irish students and an Irish American woman died after a balcony collapse in June 2015 has had its building licence revoked.

The California State Contractors License Board on Friday reached a settlement with Segue Construction to remove its contactor licence.

The regulator said the company’s subcontractors “wilfully departed from or disregarded the specifications” of the balconies at the Library Garden’s complex when constructing them, using incorrect materials and failing to install necessary support joists.

It found that the “design and load analysis of the balcony established that if the balcony has been built as designed, the imposed load of the 13 students was well within the design limits of the balcony structure”, and would not have collapsed.

The California contractor licensing board alleged the company “willfuly departed from accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike construction in the building of the Berkeley apartment complex”.

‘Dry rot’

Forensic examination of the balcony that collapsed found that there was “extensive dry rot/decay” around the balcony’s joists, due to poor waterproofing and substandard materials used in the balconies construction. The state regulator argued that “it was the decay of the joists that caused the balcony to collapse on June 16, 2015”.

A view of the collapsed fourth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens complex in Berkeley, California on June 16th, 2015. Photograph: Peter DaSilva/EPA.
A view of the collapsed fourth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens complex in Berkeley, California on June 16th, 2015. Photograph: Peter DaSilva/EPA.

The balcony collapsed during a party at the fourth floor apartment on June 16th, 2015, killing five Irish J-1 visa students and one Irish-American and injuring seven others. The six deceased were Niccolai Schuster (21), Eoghan Culligan (21), Eimear Walsh (21), Olivia Burke (21), Ashley Donohoe (22) and Lorcán Miller (21).

Segue Construction entered into the contract to build the Berkeley 176 unit ‘Library Gardens’ apartment complex on January 20th, 2005, completing the job two years later. The construction firmed had hired various subcontractors to work on the project. Subcontractors hired to provide carpentry and waterproofing work failed to build the balconies to the required standard and specification, it was found.

Segue Construction reached a settlement with the licence board after it filed an accusation against the company on November 29th last. The firm’s licence will be revoked from May 19th.

The company cannot reapply for a licence for at least five years, and its former chief executive Kirk Alan Wallis, who was the managing officer between 2002 and 2008, has agreed he is “jointly and severally responsible” to pay the California contractor regulator $99,950 towards the cost of investigating the case, if the company wish to apply to have their licence restated.

A second Segue official, David Michael Dunlop, who was the company’s managing officer from 2008 to 2016 agreed to pay the state board $15,000 as well if the company reapplies for a licence following the five year ban.