In what should be a wake-up call for property owners, investigators believe the horrific balcony accident that killed six young people and injured seven in Berkeley, Calif., yesterday was caused by a "classic case of dry rot"—even though the building was less than 10 years old. A civil engineer who inspected the scene tells the Los Angeles Times that the fourth-floor balcony should have been able to support the weight of 13 people, even if they were football players jumping up and down, but water appears to have seeped in and "totally compromised" the wooden beams holding up the balcony. Officials say the apartment complex was completed in 2007 and three other balconies there have been red-tagged, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Waterproofing the point where wooden beams come out of an exterior wall is "critically important," and it appears "something failed there," the engineer tells the LA Times. "Either the detailing wasn't adequate, or the construction was not done properly, or something happened that allowed water to intrude." The victims have been named as Irish citizens Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke, and Lorcan Miller, all 21, and 22-year-old Irish-American Ashley Donohoe, who is Burke's cousin, the Irish Times reports. The Irish students were in the US as part of the J-1 Summer Work Travel exchange program that brings 100,000 students to the US every year, the AP reports. (Read more Berkeley stories.)