Probe points to water damage in balcony collapse

Jun 17, 2015 6:41 PM by News Staff, Photo: KGO/MGN

Berkeley's mayor says early investigation points to moisture-damaged wood as a prime cause of a deadly balcony collapse.

Mayor Tom Bates said Wednesday that investigators believe the support beams may not have been sealed properly at the time of construction.

The disclosure came a day after six people, Including five students from Ireland, died in the collapse of the fifth-floor balcony during a 21st birthday party.

Seven partygoers remained hospitalized with serious injuries.

Independent structural engineers who examined photographs of the broken balcony beams also have pointed to decayed wood as a likely main cause.

12:10 p.m. (PDT)

A structural engineer says it's "surprising and unexpected" that the wooden beams supporting the Berkeley, California, apartment balcony that collapsed and killed six people had deteriorated so much on a building less than a decade old.

Darrick Hom, president of the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California, visited the site and said the wood was so decayed that the broken beams crumbled in the hands of investigators.

He said Wednesday that the wood breaking off at their touch indicates major deterioration in the joists and wondered how that level of damage happened in just eight years.

Hom says any building material exposed to the elements requires weatherproofing at the time of construction, so investigators likely will look at how weatherproofing was carried out at Library Gardens apartments.


11:10 a.m. (PDT)

The Diocese of Oakland plans a service on behalf of the students injured and killed when a balcony broke from a wall in the college town of Berkeley, California.

The service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. Spokesman Mike Brown says dignitaries have been invited, but it's uncertain who will attend.

The fifth-floor balcony collapsed early Tuesday during a 21st birthday party, spilling partygoers onto the pavement below. Five 21-year-old Irish students who were in the U.S. on work visas were killed, along with a 22-year-old Northern California woman.

Irish families of the dead and injured were heading to Berkeley. Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said in a statement Wednesday that the Irish consul general in San Francisco will meet with them when they arrive.


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