A balcony on an apartment building in Berkeley, California became the site of a tragic accident that resulted in serious injuries and fatalities. The building is just a short walk away from the University of California campus in Berkeley. Foreign students frequently rent a place in this building. It is actually famous for providing housing to students from Ireland who want to work and study in the United States under an official visa. The building not officially associated in any way with the nearby university.
The incident seems to have resulted from gathering in an apartment on the fourth floor. Friends got together in the apartment in order to celebrate a birthday. The party actually triggered a noise complaint from a neighbor in the building as midnight approached. This was just a little before the incident took place. What appears to have occurred is that 13 friends all stepped out onto a concrete balcony to get some air. Nothing seemed wrong to anyone after going outside. The balcony then crumbled and collapsed without any warning sending everyone falling to the ground. Each person fell nearly 50 feet before reaching the ground.
The partygoers were scattered as they fell. Some managed to land on balconies or other surfaces while a few hit the sidewalk or street directly. Six of the partygoers were killed because of the fall. Five of the deceased were actually citizens of Ireland here on a J-1 visa. The sixth person who died was a Californian who lived in Sonoma County. The seven other people who fell received very serious injuries. Many of the injuries were actually described as being life threatening. Vigils were held afterward. The spot of the collapse became an impromptu shrine as friends, students and family members arriving from Ireland laid various items like candles on the ground out of mourning.
Exactly what happened that night is still being looked into. The balcony was made from a concrete rectangle that was 10 feet long and around 5 feet wide. The city of Berkeley building ordinances states that a slab of that size needed to be able to withstand up to 3,000 pounds of weight. This was far less than what the 13 people weighed. Residents have been blocked from using some other balconies until the problem is found by investigators. It is possible that any number of issues were at play from a mistake during construction to workers taking shortcuts.
The property management firm in charge of this building handles close to half-million apartments. If negligence appears to be a factor, then anyone with a claim from that night will need to hire an experienced lawyer when seeking fair compensation. The management company has vast legal and financial resources. The firm is likely to fight any claims in order to preserve a clean reputation. Fortunately, a skilled attorney will work hard to fight for the rights of the victims and their families. The lawyer could eventually win a large settlement or judgment if it is determined that there were problems with the construction of the balcony.