Family of Berkeley victim in standards battle

The family of a young woman who died in the Berkeley balcony collapse in 2015 has vowed to continue to campaign for better building standards in California.

The pledge came as the survivors and the families of those who died in the accident reached a settlement with the owners and management of the apartment complex.

Irish students Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, and Eimear Walsh, along with Irish-American student Ashley Donohoe, died in the fourth-floor balcony collapse that occurred during a birthday party on June 16, 2015, at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley.

Seven other Irish students suffered injuries.

In a statement following the settlement, the law firm representing Ms Donohoe’s family said they were “insistent that there could be no ‘secret settlement’ designed to prevent the parties from discussing the facts of the case and what they believe to be the cause of this tragedy”.

“Nothing will stop us from continuing our fight to have changes made to the California building codes and regulations to require regular inspections by qualified people, proper design and use of proper construction materials, and a ban on ‘secret settlements’ that allow contractors to hide defective construction work from the contractors licensing board and the public,” said the Donohoe family in a statement.

Law firms representing the families of five of the six deceased and the survivors of the accident said they reached a settlement of all claims against BlackRock Realty Advisors, the owners of the complex, and Greystar RS California Inc, who managed the building, and their related affiliates.

“The terms of the settlement are confidential,” said the law firm of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger.

“Design defects and construction flaws allowed water to penetrate the enclosed interior of the cantilevered balcony for unit 405 of the complex.

“As a result, wood rot developed in the balcony’s wooden support structure, which was enclosed by an unventilated stucco soffit,” the firm said.

“Neither BlackRock nor Greystar discovered the wood rot during their inspections of the property. No-one contended that the victims were in any way responsible for what happened.

“BlackRock and Greystar have adopted policies and procedures regarding the inspections of balconies on the properties that they own or manage on a regularly scheduled basis. The parties also have agreed to work to promote greater awareness of balcony safety issues and take appropriate actions to prevent future tragedies of this nature,” said the firm.

Last May, the families reached a confidential settlement with seven companies involved in the construction and design of the apartment complex.

The companies were Segue Construction Ltd — the general contractor on the building — as well as Northstate Plastering, R Brother Waterproofing, Abacus Project Management, IRC Technologies, TCA Architects and LS Mason & Associates.

Last April, the California Contractors State License Board announced it was revoking the licence of Segue Construction, as a result of the balcony collapse, and it barred the company from applying for a licence for five years.


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