Tuesday 25 October 2016

Authorities 'unaware' of Berkeley builder's €23m lawsuit payouts


One of the students who was injured in the Berkeley balcony collapse has revealed she didn't find out six of her friends had died until last week.

Survivor Hannah Waters (21) was only told about the tragedy last Thursday as she recovered from the accident in hospital.

The Dublin girl, who sustained serious injuries, said she was "deeply saddened" to discover six students had lost their lives in the collapse.

"My ventilator was removed last Tuesday and I only learned of the tragic accident on Thursday," the DCU student said.

"I can't even begin to comprehend what has happened.

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the tragic passing of Lorcan, Eimear, Nick, Eoghan, Olivia and Ashley; may they forever rest in peace."

In a post on her Facebook page, Hannah revealed she had been left with back injuries, collapsed lungs and fractured ribs, legs, pelvis and elbow, but expects to make a full recovery.

The Castleknock native added that the June 16 disaster had taught her not to "take life for granted".

"This tragedy has taught me one thing and that is that we can't take life for granted. It is important that we enjoy every day as it comes; something which I intend to live by in the days of recovery ahead," she wrote.

"Luckily, I am very optimistic for a full recovery. I will be in intensive rehab in San Francisco for some time.

"I know it will not be easy and that it will be very tough but I am determined to make the best of my situation and work hard at getting back to full strength as soon as possible."

Hannah also paid tribute to fellow J1 students Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Niall Murray, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin and Aoife Beary, who also suffered injuries in the incident.

"I also send my best wishes to the other injured and pray for their speedy recovery too."

Dublin students Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster and Lorcan Miller, and American born Ashley Donohoe died when the balcony on a fourth-floor apartment collapsed due to suspected dry rot while they celebrated a 21st birthday party.

Californian authorities had no idea that the construction firm that developed the Berkeley complex where the six students died had paid out $26m (€23m) in lawsuit settlements in only six years.

Three investigations are now under way in San Francisco into the Library Gardens tragedy on June 16.

Five of the dead were Irish, and one student remains in a critical condition in Berkeley.

Alameda County district attorney Nancy O'Malley is conducting twin civil and criminal investigations into how eight timber balcony beams on a complex built in 2007 could severely rot and then catas- trophically fail.

A third probe is being conducted by the Contractors State Licence Board (CSLB), the body charged with regulating all builders operating in California. The CSLB regulates 300,000 construction firms and sub-contractors.


However, it was totally un-aware that Segue Construction had paid out $26m in lawsuit settlements over the past six years.

Several of those settlements involved claims for damage related to water leaks.

In two cases, San Jose and Millbrae, the damage claims involved timber balconies.

Segue insisted those lawsuits are totally unrelated to the Berkeley tragedy.

The City of Berkeley has already signalled that it will review planning and inspection regulations in light of the tragedy.

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