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What caused the deadly balcony collapse in CA this week?

At this point, most Roseville readers (and Californians in general) are well aware of the tragedy that occurred in Berkeley earlier this week. During a birthday party at an apartment complex near the UC-Berkeley campus, a fourth-floor balcony collapsed suddenly, dropping 13 people down about 50 feet onto the street below.

Six of those victims died and the other seven suffered severe injuries. Most of the victims and partygoers were students from Ireland, staying and working here on non-immigrant visas. While families mourn and others look on in disbelief, investigators are trying to discover why the balcony collapsed and who may be responsible for the tragic accident.

According to details news reporters have uncovered so far, there are no obvious factors to explain what happened. The five-story apartment complex is relatively new, with construction completed in 2007. If we assume that the building has been inspected and was up to code, the 5-by-10-foot balcony should have been able to support about 3,000 pounds - much more than the combined weight of the 13 people on it. The balcony, with its concrete-slab floor, broke completely off the side of the building.

After an accident like this, determining the cause is crucial for reasons beyond legal liability (although that it is important, too). If the dangerous defect was caused by shoddy construction, poor design or some other negligence, similarly designed and built structures could also be at risk. If the collapse was caused by maximum weight miscalculations or other incorrect information, that also needs to be discovered.

While families and friends grieve for the loss of their loved ones, the immediate priorities for investigators are to determine the cause of the accident and to prevent this from happening again, if at all possible.

Source: USA Today, "6 dead, 7 hurt in Calif. balcony collapse," Jessica Guynn and Michael Winter, June 16, 2015

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