Berkeley companies risk losing licences for failing to follow industry guidelines

Companies that worked on construction of the apartment in the US where six students died last year risk losing their licence for failing to follow industry guidelines.

The body which licenses building contractors in California has found that five firms which constructed the Library Gardens building in Berkeley performed inferior work. Five Irish students and a relative died there last summer when a balcony collapsed,

A nine-month investigation by the Constructors State Licence Board (CSLB) has criticised the work carried out by the general contractor as well as subcontractors involved in the framing, plastering and waterproofing of the apartment as well as a supplier of ventilation equipment.

Five Irish students — Lorcan Miller, Eimear Walsh, Niccolai Schuster, Olivia Burke, and Eoghan Culligan — as well as Ms Burke’s US cousin, Ashley Donohoe, were killed when a fifth-floor balcony collapsed during a 21st birthday party on June 16, 2015.

The CSLB investigation found that “poor workmanship” in the waterproofing of the balcony resulted in water damage that caused it to rot and eventually collapse.

The board’s chief of enforcement, Dave Fogt, told a local newspaper, the East Bay Times: “They didn’t do the work to trade standards.”

The results of the investigation are now being forwarded to the Californian Justice Department for prosecution in an administrative court.

The penalties facing the five companies range from a suspension of their licence to outright revocation.

Last month, the Alameda County district attorney ruled that no criminal charges would be brought against any of the construction firms due to insufficient evidence.

Families of the victims have separately lodged civil actions against 35 different parties including the firms involved in the construction of the balcony.

The news comes as three Irish women who left the balcony seconds before it collapsed sued the builders, owners, and managers of the building.

Caroline Conlan, Cliodhna Maloney, and Aisling Tallon are understood to have filed their lawsuit last month in Alameda County Superior Court.

They allege that the wooden balcony had poor workmanship and that warning signs of extensive water damage to the structure were ignored.

The three roommates say they, too, could have been killed or injured.

Ms Conlan, Ms Maloney, and Ms Tallon had moved into the apartment two weeks before the tragedy with their fourth roommate, Ms Beary, who was celebrating her 21st birthday the night of the collapse.

The three say they stepped off the balcony “just before” it collapsed and suffered “severe mental and emotional harm” as a result of the incident.

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