herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Witness says Berkeley balcony was sloping down towards street

INVESTIGATION

Berkeley balcony
Berkeley balcony
Ashley Donohue

ONE of the students at the 21st birthday party that ended in tragedy in Berkeley has said the balcony was sloping downwards before it collapsed.

Six young people died and seven were injured in the horrific incident last week and Alameda district attorney Nancy O'Malley has launched an investigation into what happened.

The witness account from the night of the party was contained in a submission to the DA's office by lawyers representing the parents of one of those who died, Irish-American Ashley Donohoe (22).

George and Jackie Donohue called for evidence from the scene to be preserved and analysed in an impartial manner as little as three days after the accident.

DA Ms O'Malley was asked to present initial findings to the grieving couple's lawyers - San Francisco firm Rains Lucia Stern.

In turn, the lawyers presented their own evidence to the DA, which included a statement from an Irish student who attended the party that night.

This witness has said that the balcony was actually sloping downwards towards the street before it collapsed.

Other evidence presented to the DA's office included photographs demonstrating water damage to the balcony dating back to 2008 and complaints of rot, leaks and flooding as recently as three months ago.

Pledge

Ms O'Malley has confirmed that a new formal investigation into the tragedy has been launched, a development that one of the partners at the law firm, Harry Stern, described as: "a step in the right direction".

"Each of you deserve to have this matter thoroughly and exhaustively investigated. We will do so. That is the pledge I make from my office," Ms O'Malley said addressing the families directly.

She confirmed she had received correspondence from the Irish community but denied that this led to the launch of the formal investigation following the announcement from local authorities that their involvement was over.

The new probe follows a City of Berkeley engineering investigation which found that the eight timber support beams of the fourth-storey balcony failed due to "severe dry rot".

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