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article imageNo charges filed in balcony collapse that killed 6 in Berkeley

By Nathan Salant     Mar 30, 2016 in Crime
Berkeley - California prosecutors will not bring criminal charges over last year's fatal balcony collapse that killed six young people.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office said Tuesday that a nine-month investigation revealed no evidence of "gross or reckless conduct" in the construction or maintenance of a 176-unit apartment building where the collapse occurred on June 16, 2015.
“This is not a decision that I came to lightly,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a written statement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
“It is the culmination of months of consultation with my team of attorneys [and] follows extensive review of reports, both legal and factual, and numerous meetings with investigators and experts,” O'Malley said.
The six who died, all college students in the United States or Ireland, were killed when the overcrowded balcony collapsed during a birthday party at the Library Gardens apartment complex on Kittredge Street, throwing celebrants to the ground five floors below.
The dead were Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park and Irish citizens Olivia Burke, Eoghan Colligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorean Miller and Eimear Walsh, all 21.
Seven additional students were injured.
“Not a day has passed since the tragedy of June 16 that I have not thought of the victims and their families,” O’Malley said.
“Friends, families and entire communities both in California and in Ireland have been affected by the horror of that day," she said.
A Pleasant Hill, Calif., law firm representing the family of one of the victims, released a statement expressing disappointment in the decision.
“There is a deep desire for this case to act as a lesson for other builders and avoid a tragedy like this from happening again,” the statement by the Rains Lucia Stern firm said.
O’Malley said her office's investigation revealed the balcony had been compromised by extensive dry rot damage caused by water that had been trapped by the structure in certain areas.
“There appear to be many contributory causes of this encapsulation, including the types of material that were used (none of which are prohibited by building code) and the very wet weather Berkeley experienced during the months of construction,” O’Malley said.
“The responsibility for this failure likely extends to many of the parties involved in the construction or maintenance of the building.”
Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguin, who sought changes in city buildings code following the collapse, said he was encouraged by O’Malley’s report.
“While the (district attorney)’s office did not find criminal negligence, I believe that their investigation, along with our efforts in the city of Berkeley to strengthen building codes, will help prevent such a tragedy from happening again,” Arreguin said in a written statement.
The Contractors State License Board opened its own probe of the construction companies that helped build the five-story building and said it was nearing completion.
The board has the power to revoke the companies' licenses.
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