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5 Companies Cited For Poor Work In Berkeley Balcony Collapse That Killed Six

Rotted wood beams were noted as a cause for the balcony collapse last June, and a state agency found the work of five construction companies was below state standards, causing the damage.

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Five construction companies involved in the construction of a Berkeley apartment where a balcony collapsed and killed six students could lose their licenses, state officials told BuzzFeed News.

The finding was made by the California State Contractor's Licensing Board at the end of a nine-month long investigation, which reportedly found that poor work caused water incursion and rot, which weakened the balcony.

"They didn't do the work to trade standards," Dave Fogt, the board's chief of enforcement, told the East Bay Times. "There was poor workmanship."

The companies cited in the report include Segue Construction, in Pleasanton, Etter and Sons Construction in Dana Point, R. Brothers Waterproofing in San Jose, North State Plastering in Fairfield, and The Energy Store of California in Sacramento.

All five companies could face suspension of their construction licenses or outright revocation, Rick Lopes, spokesman for the California State Contractor's Licensing Board, told BuzzFeed News.

Etter and Sons Construction also faces an allegation of failing or refusing to cooperate in the state's investigation.

According to the licensing board, the findings will be sent to the California Attorney General's Office, which will handle the case in administrative court.

Last month, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley announced there would be no criminal charges in the case, saying there was not enough evidence to prove that any person or company had acted negligently to cause the balcony collapse.

"This is not a decision that I came to lightly,” O’Malley said. “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 collapse on June 16 killed six college students, five of whom were from Ireland. They were celebrating a 21st birthday at the apartment when the fourth-story balcony gave way. Seven other people who were on the balcony at the time of the collapse were injured.

In the days following their deaths, local officials pointed to water damage that caused rot of the wooden beams supporting the balcony. The district attorney's office confirmed water had become trapped in the structure, causing the rot, because of the materials used in construction as well as wet weather during the time of construction.

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Though a number of individuals contributed to these circumstances, the district attorney's office said there was not enough evidence to show the deadly collapse was foreseeable, or that anyone had acted with extreme negligence or disregard to human life.

Already, local officials have toughened building codes, requiring inspections every three years of existing balconies. New buildings must use rot-proof materials in construction.

The district attorney told reporters her office had reached out to the victims' families before publicly discussing the decision not to file charges.

"I am keenly aware of the devastation and injuries each victim and each family suffered and continues to confront," O'Malley said. "Friends, families, and entire communities both in California and in Ireland have been affected by the horror of that day."


Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Claudia Koerner at claudia.koerner@buzzfeed.com.

Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.

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