Second balcony removed from Berkeley apartment complex

City official deems third floor balcony under one that collapsed ‘structurally unsound’

Building inspectors have removed the third floor balcony underneath the one that collapsed on Tuesday in Berkeley describing it as “ structurally unsound”.

The balcony has been removed for inspection and taken to a secure location, the City of Berkeley has confirmed.

Six students, five of whom were Irish, were killed when the fourth floor balcony collapsed in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Part of the fourth floor balcony from unit 405 collapsed on to the balcony underneath which is unit 305.

Matthai Chakko, assistant to the city manager of Berkeley, told RTÉ Morning Ireland that both balconies had been in bad condition.

He said the balcony at 305, the apartment under the flat where the collapse occurred, was “not safe and there was a danger it could collapse on to the sidewalk below. It had to be removed because it posed a threat to the public right of way.”

The engineers involved are examining water damage as one of the factors that might have caused the wooden beams supporting the balcony to collapse, he said.

Mr Chakko confirmed that the Library Gardens student apartment block on Kittredge Street had been subject to complaints but these were more about the habitability of the apartments in the complex than the structure of the building itself.

Housing complaint

There was one outstanding housing code complaint, but none relating to the balcony collapse, he confirmed.

“There have been complaints from individual tenants about conditions inside individual units which is not unusual”.

The City of Berkeley is set to release all its files relating to the apartment where the balcony collapsed.

The documents will include any inspections relating to the balcony which collapsed. “At various stages elements of the balcony would be included in inspections,” Mr Chakko said.

The Mayor of Berkeley Tom Bates had advised Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to prosecute the building company if it was found not to have built the balcony properly.

He was speaking after it emerged that Segue Construction, the California firm which built the complex, paid $3 million (€2.6 million) last year to settle a case over alleged defects in another apartment scheme.

California court records show the company paid the money to settle a legal action over defects found in the waterproofing of balconies.

Investigators at Library Gardens are continuing to examine wooden beams, which supported the fallen balcony, that appeared to have rotted or been damaged by water.

"It seems like there are a high probability that there could be some problems with water getting into the wood," Mr Bates said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

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