Deadly balcony collapse tied to rotted wooden beams
Berkeley, Calif. — The balcony collapse that killed six college students appears to have been caused by rotted wooden beams, Berkeley's mayor said Thursday as the victims' heartbroken loved ones began arriving in California from Ireland.
Mayor Tom Bates said investigators believe the wood was not sealed properly at the time of construction and was damaged by moisture as a result. He said that appears to be the prime cause of Tuesday's tragedy.
"More than likely, it was caused by rain and water damage that was caused to the support beams," Bates said.
The crowded fifth-floor balcony broke off an apartment building during a 21st-birthday party held by visiting Irish college students, spilling 13 people 50 feet onto the pavement below. In addition to the six killed, seven were seriously hurt.
Berkeley building inspectors also determined another balcony at the apartment building was "structurally unsafe and presented a collapse hazard," and it ordered it demolished. Two other balconies were red-tagged, or declared off-limits.
Across the Atlantic, flags flew at half-staff around Ireland and the country's parliament suspended normal business as the nation mourned the dead: Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park, California, and Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh, all 21-year-olds from Ireland.
"They were in the prime of their lives," said Bernadette Prendiville, principal of the high school from which Burke and Walsh graduated. "They had a successful time in school, went about their work quietly and had everything going for them, everything ahead of them."
A Mass was planned for Wednesday evening in Oakland for the victims.