DA: No criminal charges filed in deadly Berkeley balcony collapse

- After a nine month investigation, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office announced criminal charges will not be filed in connection with the collapse of a balcony on June 16, 2015.

Six students lost their lives in the balcony collapse and seven others were seriously injured.

“Not a day has passed since the tragedy of June 16 that I have not thought of the victims and their families,” says DA Nancy O’Malley.  “I am keenly aware of the devastation and injuries each victim and each family suffered and continues to confront.  Friends, families and entire communities both in California and in Ireland have been affected by the horror of that day.”

Experts in the fields of structural engineering, waterproofing and architecture participated in an investigation to find a cause for the balcony collapse.

After studying balcony remnants and reviewing forensic lab reports, experts believe the main reason the balcony collapsed was because water was trapped on “encapsulated” in the balcony deck during construction. They believe this led to dry rot, which caused damage. According to the District Attorney’s Office this could be due to the types of materials that were used in construction,  and “very wet weather” that occurred at the time of the construction. “The responsibility for this failure likely extends to many of the parties involved in the construction or maintenance of the building,” according to a news release from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

The attorney’s office concluded “there is insufficient evidence to bring criminal manslaughter charges against any one individual or company.”

“This is not a decision that I came to lightly,” explains DA Nancy O’Malley.  “It is the culmination of months of consultation with my team of attorneys.  It follows extensive review of reports, both legal and factual, and numerous meetings with investigators and experts.”

The students killed in the collapse were Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park; Olivia Burke, 21, Eoghan Culligan, 21, Niccolai Schuster, 21, Lorcan Miller, 21 and Eimear Walsh, 21, all from Ireland. The coroner said all of the victims died of multiple blunt traumatic injuries.

The following statement was released on behalf of the family of Ashley Donohoe:

"The Donohoe family is very appreciative of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office’s devotion of substantial resources to conduct a thorough and extensive investigation. The Donohoe family commends the DA’s Office for immediately announcing its intention to conduct an independent investigation when other agencies would not complete an investigation of this tragedy.


The Donohoes continue to grieve their loss and were hopeful that the DA would pursue criminal charges against those who were responsible for this tragedy. The Donohoe family’s disappointment stems from their belief that the criminal justice system would act as a deterrent for other corporations and builders to engage in similar grossly negligent behavior. 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 Donohoe family feels there was a series of events that led to this tragedy which could have been avoided if the balcony was properly designed, constructed and inspected. The fact that construction companies and builders are allowed to enter into secret settlements is very concerning to the Donohoe family. They believe that this allows for companies to hide prior wrongdoings and that there may be other balconies or projects that have defects and are not being properly identified. 

The DA’s investigation has resulted in determinations and findings that appear to establish culpability for many of the defendants in our pending civil lawsuit."
 

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