Berkeley erects memorial in remembrance of victims of 2015 balcony collapse

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Reni De La Nuez /Staff

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A memorial plaque honoring the victims who died in a balcony collapse in 2015 was unveiled Saturday at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.

The plaque honored five Irish exchange program students — Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller — along with California resident Ashley Donohoe.

The unveiling had about 100 people in attendance, with many of the victims’ families having flown in from Ireland to attend the ceremony. Two of the victims’ fathers together unveiled the plaque, and many people — including Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Irish priest Rev. Brendan McBride — spoke about the victims.

“The Berkeley balcony collapse of June 2015 was a terrible tragedy and one which had an enormous effect on Ireland,” said Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall in a press release. “The depth of grief, shock and sorrow was immense – six young lives so tragically and prematurely ended and serious injury inflicted on so many.”

A small reception was held at Old City Hall after the event, where victims’ loved ones spoke about those who lost their lives.

The balcony collapsed during a 21st birthday party in an apartment in the complex now called K Street Flats in Downtown Berkeley. There were 13 people on the balcony connected to the apartment when it fell from the building.

I want to thank the first responders for their heroic response during that fateful night, and to everyone who has been involved in advocating for the creation of improved building codes to prevent such tragedies from happening again,” Arreguín said in a press release.

In the aftermath of the event, the victims’ families settled multiple lawsuits with the company that owns the apartment complex and the construction company that built the apartment complex. The parties settled with the companies involved for a sum undisclosed to the public.

In addition, Segue Construction had its license revoked for at least five years as part of a settlement of a lawsuit that alleged that the company had departed from building plans. Numerous lawsuits also alleged that Segue failed to correctly waterproof breezeways, stairwells and balconies in its other construction projects. Segue’s former responsible managing officer, Kirk Wallis, was also required at the time to pay part of the $99,950 investigation fee demanded by the Contractors State License Board.

Revision of housing laws also took place in the aftermath of the incident.

It’s extremely sad that this happened, and it has created some changes on the part of the city and on the part of the state of California,” said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “I think it’s really important to remember such a tragic situation.”

Contact Jasmine Sheena at [email protected].