An independent engineer says that design of an apartment complex balcony near UC Berkeley that collapsed last week, killing six college students — including five visiting from Ireland — had no obvious defects and was not overloaded, according to a news report.
The civil and structural engineer, who has no ties to the investigation, inspected the balcony’s architectural design and said that it should have held up to 13 people if it was built according to the plans and was properly maintained.
The report noted that many experts believe the balcony collapsed because the wooden beams that supported the structure were rotted from exposure to water. Berkeley city officials ordered the removal of a second balcony in the same building because of dry rot a few days following the tragedy.
The Irish students — Olivia Burke, 21; Eoghan Culligan, 21; Lorcan Miller, 21; Niccolai Schuster, 21; and Eimear Walsh, 21 — attended various colleges in Dublin and were spending their summer working in the U.S. under the J-1 visa program.
In addition to the five Irish students, the balcony collapse claimed the life of Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park, California, who reportedly held joint Irish-American citizenship. Seven more people were injured.
The students were celebrating a 21st birthday in an apartment in The Library Gardens apartment complex. At least 13 people were reportedly on the balcony of the fifth-floor apartment in the complex when it collapsed, sending them about 50 feet down onto the pavement.
Daniel J. Callahan of Callahan & Blaine, who is of Irish descent and has been named to the Irish Legal 100 for five years, an award that recognizes him as one of the top Irish-American attorneys in the United States, said, “We continue to grieve for the families of these young people who were in the prime of their lives. This is an unfathomable tragedy made worse by the knowledge that it may have been preventable.”
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