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'The balcony collapse that killed my daughter was not an isolated event'

A new law aimed at preventing further tragedies was signed in today.

Image: Jeff Chiu/PA

THE STATE OF California has today adopted a new law aimed at preventing tragedies such as the balcony collapse in Berkeley which killed six Irish students and injured seven others in June last year.

The measures contained in the bill SB 265 were signed into law by the Governor of California Jerry Brown and is a first step towards stronger building standards, mandatory inspections and standardised training for building inspectors.

Jackie Donohoe, the mother of victim Ashley Donohoe, and aunt of Olivia Burke who also died in the collapse, has been campaigning in the US for the law to be strengthened in this area. Today she said she hoped the process would prevent this type of tragedy from happening again.

There have been previous balcony collapses as a result of dry rot and poor construction both in California and nationally, including the recent collapse at Trinity College in Connecticut. The Berkeley balcony collapse at Library Gardens that killed my daughter was not an isolated event. These tragedies are repeat catastrophes that can be prevented. We must stand united against the construction industry’s special interest agenda to prevent these proposed changes.

Berkeley Balcony Collapse Jackie Donohoe places items on top of her daughter's casket during a service in June last year. Source: Michael Short/AP

The goal of her campaign, she said, is to ensure the construction company is required to release public safety records and report any work-related crimes or settlements.

“It is my hope that this bill will ultimately force changes to the building codes and require stricter standards for balcony construction. Most importantly, contractors who build defective structures must be required to publicly disclose their settlements,” she said.

“The practice of ‘secret settlements’ in the construction industry only helps contractors hide their negligent conduct. The public and the agencies overseeing this industry must have access to this information so that substandard contractors can be identified and properly regulated.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan also welcomed the adoption of the bill, describing it as a “testament to the tireless advocacy of those directly affected by the horrific Berkeley balcony collapse which resulted in the deaths and injuries of a number of Irish students over a year ago”.

This change to the law, which is aimed at preventing future accidents by improving standards, would not have been possible without the pressure which they brought to bear and the brave testimony which they gave in the course of the lengthy legislative process.

“This legislation is, but one step in a broader process which the Irish government hopes will ensure that no other family has to endure the loss and injury suffered by our students, their families and friends in Berkeley a year ago,” he said.

Read: California Senate unanimously passes construction reform bill after Berkeley tragedy>

Read: ‘I miss my friends so much’: Berkeley balcony survivor speaks out about tragedy>

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