A 21st-birthday celebration thrown by a group of visiting Irish college students turned tragic early Tuesday when the fifth-floor balcony they had been crammed onto collapsed with a sharp crack, spilling them about 50 feet onto the pavement. Six people today were killed and seven seriously injured.
Police and fire and building officials had been working to figure out why the little balcony broke loose from the stucco apartment home a couple of blocks from the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. But a single structural engineer stated it may have been overloaded if, as city officials mentioned, it was holding 13 people.
High school student Jason Biswas’ household nearby was awakened by the noise.
“They believed there was an earthquake, but then we looked out the window and saw seven or eight folks on the ground,” the 16-year-old mentioned. “There had been piles of blood everywhere.”
Five of the dead had been 21-year-olds from Ireland who have been in the country on so-named J-1 visas that enable young people to work and travel in the U.S. more than the summer, when the sixth victim was from California, authorities stated.
The accident brought an outpouring of grief in Ireland from the prime minister on down, with the country’s consul basic in San Francisco calling it a “national tragedy.”
Police had gotten a complaint about a loud celebration in the apartment about an hour prior to the accident but had not however arrived when the metal-rail balcony gave way just immediately after 12:30 a.m., spokesman Byron White mentioned. It landed on the fourth-floor balcony just beneath it, leaving the pavement strewn with rubble and the red plastic cups that are virtually normal at college parties.
“I just heard a bang and a lot of shouting,” stated Dan Sullivan, a 21-year-old student from Ireland who was asleep in the five-story constructing. Mark Neville, a further Irish student in the developing, mentioned: “I walked out and I saw rubble on the street and a bunch of Irish students crying.”
The U.S. government’s J-1 program brings 100,000 college students to this nation just about every year, many of them landing jobs at resorts, summer camps and other attractions. The San Francisco Bay area is specifically popular with Irish students, about 700 of whom are operating and playing here this summer time, according to Ireland’s Consul Common Philip Grant. Several operate at Fisherman’s Wharf and other tourist web sites.
Sinead Loftus, 21, who attends Trinity College Dublin and is living this summer time in a diverse apartment in Berkeley, said Berkeley is “the Irish hub.” In truth, she mentioned, “I’ve heard persons complain there are too numerous persons from Ireland right here.”
“It’s student-friendly, it is warm and it’s a lot cheaper than San Francisco,” she stated.
Investigators will appear at such issues as no matter whether the balcony was constructed to code, regardless of whether it was overloaded and no matter if rain or other climate weakened it, stated Kevin Moore, chairman of the structural standards committee of the Structural Engineers Association of California.
Berkeley officials mentioned the constructing code would have necessary the balcony to hold at least 60 pounds per square foot. Its exact dimensions were not released, but Grace Kang, a structural engineer and spokeswoman for Pacific Earthquake Engineering Investigation Center at Berkeley, mentioned it looked to her to be four by 6 feet, or 24 square feet. That would imply it was supposed to hold at least 1,440 pounds.
She said it appeared compact for the crowd that had apparently gathered on it, Kang said.