No Criminal Charges In Berkeley Balcony Collapse Case

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Following a nine-month investigation, the Alameda County district attorney Nancy E O’Malley said there was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal manslaughter charges.Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, whose son works in the district attorney’s office, said in a statement, “I can not say I am surprised by the District Attorney’s decision”.”It is the culmination of months of consultation with my team of attorneys”, she said.A California prosecutor has decided against criminal charges over a balcony collapse in Berkeley last June that killed multiple students from Ireland.Thirteen people attending a birthday party, including many visiting Irish students, were standing on the fourth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St. when it collapsed in the early morning hours of June 16, 2015.Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, and Niccolai Schuster were all killed, and seven other students were seriously injured. Following an initial investigation by Berkeley city authorities the balcony was found to have suffered significant water damage, which had caused dry rot in the wooden joists holding the balcony. On Tuesday, the district attorney’s office confirmed water had become trapped in the structure, causing the rot, because of the materials used in construction as well as wet weather during the time of construction.Nancy O’Malley said she did not believe it would be possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that any individual or company committed manslaughter through criminal negligence.There still may be administrative action taken by the Contractors State License Board against involved construction companies.Despite the ruling, lawyers representing the families affected by the Berkeley balcony tragedy said they will press on with civil lawsuits.The district attorney told reporters her office had reached out to the victims’ families before publicly discussing the decision not to file charges.Flanagan added, “This investigation is an important step in a process, the ultimate objective of which is to ensure that a tragedy such as Berkeley never occurs again”.Investigators say building plans would have included a 60lbs-per-sqaure-foot rule for the balcony and may have been overloaded.On Tuesday, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said his thoughts were with the relatives and friends of those who died.”Industry experts in the fields of structural engineering, waterproofing and architecture have participated extensively in this investigation”.Investigators poured over logs, inspection and maintenance records, while conducting “extensive” witness interviews.”The responsibility for this failure likely extends to numerous parties involved in the construction or maintenance of the building”, O’Malley’s statement said. This was removed to a secure location and the testing was carried out last October with representatives of the victims, their families and the construction and development companies present to observe.