I-TEAM: Documents raise new questions for builder of collapsed balcony

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- There is new information about what may have caused a balcony to collapse in Berkeley early Tuesday, killing six young people and injuring seven others. The city released architectural drawings of the building and the I-Team showed them to experts.

The experts tell the I-Team the drawings prove the architect got it right, but they raise new, serious questions for the builder and for city inspectors.

The I-Team was there at Berkeley Police headquarters, when the victims' families arrived from Ireland to meet with clergy and city officials. They're doing all they can to help the parents, dealing with a child who has passed away.

"It's just been simple things," says Berkeley Police Department spokesman Ethell Wilson. "Maybe personal effects, or just locating vehicles, just wanting to know, get more answers as best we can."

While inspectors were back at the scene looking for those answers, the city released all the architectural drawings from Library Gardens. They show the detail of the balcony that collapsed. Noyes took pictures, and showed them to veteran structural engineer Gene St. Onge, who said, "It really does indicate a lot of detail and how this was waterproofed and flashed and so forth."



The city of Berkeley released the architectural drawings of the Library Gardens apartment complex on Thursday, June 18, 2015.

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St. Onge says this picture shows the system was designed well, with the metal flashing connecting to a waterproof membrane on the balcony. But somehow, the wooden beams meant to support the deck suffered from dry rot.

St. Onge concluded, "The implication then is that it was not implemented properly, why not? Who, if anyone, inspected it?"

St. Onge looked through all 57 pages of inspection documents from the Library Gardens construction and couldn't find a single note about waterproofing on that balcony. The next logical question is did the builder, Segue Construction, install the water-proofing correctly?

"This kind of thing is just an accident waiting to happen," attorney Tom Miller told the I-Team. "We see these balcony conditions all the time."

Miller sued the builders of a Millbrae apartment complex, including Segue, over faulty balconies. The complaint included a long list of water intrusion issues and it settled two years ago for $3.5 million with no admission of liability.

The I-Team saw crews at the Millbrae complex on Thursday. Miller tells us, they're fixing the same kind of problems that led to the Library Gardens collapse.

Miller explained, "It was clear that it was the same tell-tale signs of dry rot, water intrusion and degradation of the structural members that support that balcony that led to that disaster."

Segue Construction did not return our calls and emails asking about the architectural drawings and the questions they raise, but on Wednesday a spokesman for the company emailed us about the balcony collapse saying, "Segue Construction has built more than 6,000 apartment units and has never had an incident like this in its history."

The I-Team has also obtained records that show Berkeley Police received noise complaints about parties at that complex 71 times in the past year-and-a-half, including the night of the collapse. The neighbors tell us the apartment managers were not strict about cracking down on the parties, even when they got quite large and loud, including that night.
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