The fourth-floor balcony that collapsed with 13 people on it earlier this week in Berkeley, Ca., was mostly decorative, according to a member of the Berkeley Design Review Committee that approved the building in 2001. Six students—five of them Irish citizens—died and seven more were injured after the balcony plummeted from the Library Gardens apartment building during a 21st birthday party early Tuesday morning.
“It was definitely not large enough to be what the city would call an ‘open space balcony,’ where groups of people could stand outside,” Carrie Olson, a 14-year member of the review committee, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This was meant just to be a place where someone could stand out for bit, get a breath of fresh air. Not for something like 13 people.”
According to a city spokesman who spoke with the Chronicle, the balcony was designed to bear 60 pounds of weight per square foot, which meets city and state codes. Apartment owners aren’t legally required to post weight limits for balconies.
“It seems that those students were just doing what young people do, crowding onto a balcony,” she said. “But it’s up to us, not them, to make this stuff safe. That’s just what kids do. We have a responsibility, not just as citizens of Berkeley but as citizens of the world who send their children here, to make sure our structures are safe.”
Five of the victims—Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh—were 21-year-old Irish students spending the summer in Berkeley. The sixth victim, Ashley Donohue, 22, was from Sonoma County, California.
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.