herald

Thursday 17 August 2017

Berkeley ruling could lead to more accidents - family of victim Ashley

The collapsed Berkeley balcony (AP)
The collapsed Berkeley balcony (AP)
Ashley Donohoe

The family of student Ashley Donohoe, who was killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse, have said they are "disappointed" that no one will face criminal charges following her death.

A statement issued by the family's legal representatives said they feel there is a "failure of the system" and fear a lack of criminal charges will lead to "similar types of accidents".

A district attorney in California said there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal manslaughter charges in connection with the tragedy, which claimed the lives of six Irish students and seriously injured seven more.

Cousin

Irish-American Ashley (22) was killed alongside her cousin, Dubliner Olivia Burke (21), and four other young people in the accident last June 16 that left seven others with life-changing injuries.

"The Donohoe family are disappointed that criminal charges are not being pursued, and their feeling is that the whole concept of the criminal law is supposed to act as a deterrent and the most important thing to them is that something like this doesn't happen again," the statement read.

"The fact that the criminal law appears to have been unable to do this shows that it is set up in a way to make it very difficult to bring charges against a corporation in a situation like this.

"They feel that it is more a failure of the system. Their fear is that if there is no deterrent there will continue to be similar types of accidents in the future."

The statement went on to express the family's concerns at the US legal system's "inability to punish people who appear to have done something wrong".

A statement on behalf of the families of the other five who died - J1 students Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke - said the announcement was not unexpected, given the high burden of proof required.

However, it added that the families were determined "to hold those responsible accountable".

"It remains our clients' quest to uncover the truth, to hold those responsible accountable and to bring about changes to industry practices to pre- vent such a needless tragedy from recurring," the statement read.

The news that no charges would be pursued was announced yesterday by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, who said there was "insufficient evidence" to bring criminal manslaughter charges against any company or individual.

Ms O'Malley said there app-eared to be many contributory causes leading to the tragedy, including the types of material that were used and the very wet weather Berkeley had experienced during the months of construction.

She added that a number of expert witnesses and construction specialists had been consulted during the state's nine-month investigation.

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