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Water-Damaged Wood May Have Caused Balcony Collapse: Mayor

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    Water-Damaged Wood May Have Caused Balcony Collapse: Mayor

    Berkeley's mayor says early investigation points to moisture-damaged wood as a prime cause of the deadly balcony collapse that killed six people in their 20s. Jodi Hernandez and Mark Matthews report. (Published Wednesday, June 17, 2015)

    Berkeley's mayor says early investigation points to moisture-damaged wood as a prime cause of the deadly balcony collapse that killed six people in their 20s.

    Mayor Tom Bates said Wednesday that investigators believe the support beams might not have been properly sealed at the time of construction. In response to press reports quoting him, the mayor issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying, in part, “It was speculation on my part about possible water damage to the wood supports for the balcony. That is not an official conclusion. I am not a structural engineer and am not qualified to make a judgment.”

    The mayor's comments came a day after six people, Including five students from Ireland, died in the collapse of the fifth-floor balcony during a 21st birthday party.

    Seven partygoers remained hospitalized with serious injuries.

    Independent structural engineers who examined photographs of the broken balcony beams also have pointed to decayed wood as a likely main cause.

    Mourners gathered Wednesday morning at a memorial outside the Kittredge Street apartment building where the balcony collapsed as city officials deemed another balcony in the same building structurally unsafe. Balconies at two other units were red-tagged, meaning that access to them was forbidden.

    The tragedy struck close to home for many Irish students who also came to the San Francisco Bay Area for the summer on a J-1 visa.

    "It's absolutely tragic to think it might have been one of us," Sinead Loftus said. "It might have been me or my roommate. They were exactly like me."

    Loftus, who attends Trinity College in Dublin, called Berkeley the Bay Area's "Irish hub."