‘The Broken Beams Crumbled In The Hands Of Investigators’

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, above, and the balcony which collapsed, leaving six young people dead and seven injured, top

7 News WSVN reports:

“Berkeley’s mayor says early investigation points to moisture-damaged wood as a prime cause of a deadly balcony collapse. Mayor Tom Bates said Wednesday that investigators believe the support beams may not have been sealed properly at the time of construction.”

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

“A structural engineer says it’s “surprising and unexpected” that the wooden beams supporting the Berkeley, California, apartment balcony that collapsed and killed six people had deteriorated so much on a building less than a decade old.”

“Darrick Hom, president of the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California, visited the site and said the wood was so decayed that the broken beams crumbled in the hands of investigators.”

“He said Wednesday that the wood breaking off at their touch indicates major deterioration in the joists and wondered how that level of damage happened in just eight years.”

“Hom says any building material exposed to the elements requires weatherproofing at the time of construction, so investigators likely will look at how weatherproofing was carried out at Library Gardens apartments.”

Meanwhile, further to that New York Times article, Eileen Murphy, spokeswoman for the newspaper, writes:

“This piece was a second-day story following yesterday’s news story of the collapse. It was intended to explain in greater detail why these young Irish students were in the US. We understand and agree that some of the language in the piece could be interpreted as insensitive, particularly in such close proximity to this tragedy. It was never our intention to blame the victims and we apologize if the piece left that impression. We will continue to cover this story and report on the young people who lost their lives.”

And one of the reporters who contributed to the article, Adam Nagourney, writes:

“… I mean this as by way of explanation and not excuse. By the time I came on the story, it had already been on our site for five hours or so and we wanted to do something to move it forward. The idea for a second-day story was to focus on the J-1 visa program, and the number of Irish students who, through the program, came here in the summer; I think that was a relatively new thought to us and many of our readers.”

“There are obviously positive aspects to the program, which has been a great resource for thousands of young Irish students, as well as negative ones. Looking back, I had the balance wrong; I put too much emphasis on the negative aspects, and they were too high in my story. That did not become clear to me until I got a distraught email from a reader right after the story posted. I made a minor change in the story to try to address that, but it did not go far enough.”

“Do I think that the program – as well as the problems associated with it – are fair game for a news story? Yes. But there was a more sensitive way to tell the story. I absolutely was not looking to in any way appear to be blaming the victims, or causing pain in this awful time for their families and friends. I feel very distressed at having added to their anguish.”

The Latest: Probe points to water damage in balcony collapse (7 News WSVN)

Valid Complaints on Story about Berkeley Balcony Collapse (Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor’s Journal, New York Times)

Previously: Anything Good In The New York Times?

Pics: SF Gate and Jessica Guynn

57 thoughts on “‘The Broken Beams Crumbled In The Hands Of Investigators’

    1. Odis

      Perhaps all the beer spilled on the balcony, over the years by Irish drunks, rotted the wood.

    2. Rotide peed on my lock

      Yeah I liked this bit…. the story “had already been on our site for five hours or so and we wanted to do something to move it forward”

      Translation…
      This story is going nowhere, we need to optimise the impact and sensationalise this story by linking it to a wider J1 story. Yeah, let’s click bait that fupper!
      Journos by training or by nature are heartless hounds nine times out of ten. Never ever date one :)

  1. mary keating

    that is not an apology.
    the article is extremely cruel and insensitive, just as all articles published by the failing ratings of NYtimes are.
    We complain daily and sometimes hourly at the utter drivel published by this israeli zio rag.. it all falls upon deaf ears. There was a time when NYt was reputable, but alas those days are well gone.
    To imply blame and cite an outdated report of vandalism as if it were relevant to this tragic incident where kids died or are left with life threatening injuries is not going to bode well for the Americans responsible for the construction of this building or Irish American relations in general.
    The gutter press refrained- NYT boldly chastised the dead victims and those still fighting for their lives.
    Journalistic standards no longer hold sway in NYT.
    Last year they failed to publish letters or reports regarding the Gaza genocide of more than 2000 unarmed people. They refused to publish the soldiers’ testimonies, and were alone in this
    One must wonder at their connections with Black Rock properties and others responsible for these deaths..
    we will not go gently when apportioning blame.
    Perhaps if said rag concentrated upon factual acquisition, and accuracy, for once and adhered to internationally recognised codes of journalism, we could forgive- in time.
    unlike the Palestinians, Ireland, both abroad and at home has buying power and power to destroy such trite insulting and cruel publications, and I promise you, this incident will not be forgotten.

  2. Odis

    Because – you know – bolting a balcony to a lump of wood, seemed like such a great structural idea in the first place – what could go wrong?

  3. Joe the Lion

    Folks really need to understand the digital world for media including this website sure loves a good clickbait.

    Of more interest to me personally is the seeming blind faith folks have in the likes of NYT which to be fair has some great cooking recipes but has long since been discredited as a news source.

    Also of interest: the whining and gnashing of teeth that goes on when a foreigner has the temerity to suggest the bloody obvious: namely that some Irish folks tend to drink to excess. paddy land in exculsis deo

    1. gallantman

      The fact that Irish people drink too much wasn’t the issue-it was the context in which this point was made and the inferences that were implied. There is no causal link between drunkeness and these deaths so why attempt to draw them? It doesn’t matter if those kids were smoking crack for the previous 48 hours, they shouldn’t have died because they went and stood on a balcony.

      1. Joe the Lion

        Are you seriously suggesting that if you were stone cold sober you’d party on a wooden balcony with several other adults? There may or may not be an element of personal responsibility here but as usual anyone who dares suggest that gets shot down

        1. ReproBertie

          What are you talking about Joe? The apartment had a balcony. People went onto the balcony trusting that the balcony was safe because what sort of paranoia must one be inflicted with to think otherwise? The balcony had become unsafe and they died. Your constant attempts to blame the victims for not having a structural engineer check the balcony before going onto it are ridiculous.

          1. Joe the Lion

            Bertie your putting words in my mouth points to the amazing capacity of the Irish to blame someone else other than apportion proportionate responsibility. You must also see that what I’m saying has some resonance or wouldn’t need to ridicule it.
            You could just disagree with my point of view without the shrill hyperbole.

            I look at that balcony and I think 13 people is an awful lot of people on such a small balcony. I assert that normal judgement may have been impaired due to excessive high spirits. Rather than blaming the victims I’m suggesting that this tragic event is an opportunity to engage in a national conversation about problem drinking in society. Even if there was no evidence to suggest these folks weren’t drinking, and there appears to be plenty to suggest otherwise, but I’ll let that pass -the opportunity to remind our young folks to party in a more sensible manner appears to be missed by those of you who insist on blaming the New York Times, a long discredited rag, for engaging in the sort of clickbait tabloid journalism that is also the stock and trade of this publication here (on regular occasions). Reading this commentary you’d swear the New York Times caused these young peoples deaths and that their night’s fun was in no way fuelled by anything other than Kerrygold, Premier milk, Tayto crisps and TK lemonade.

    2. Joe cool

      Joe are you just a be11end or were you dropped on your head as a child. Always trying to find a victim.

  4. Mark

    Who thought it was a good idea to make a balcony out of wood with no metal or concrete supports?

          1. dereviled

            In fairness Joe you get a disproportionate amount of media coverage for the half formed barely sentient drivel you spew.

  5. ProvingGround

    Apparently the rot was due to high-concentration exposure of a cocktail of Guinness and vomit, in addition to an underlying raucousness…

  6. Spaghetti Hoop

    Pretty clear here. NYT embellished the story by linking it to a previous one of theirs (that they revelled in because it flawed the so-loved Irish diaspora), thereby implicating victim blame. To sell their story, add an ‘edge’ to their reporting. Making assumptions like that is wrong, especially in light of the alleged (but believable so far) structural problems with the balcony. Mexican builders have also been implicated in this very sad story too. I would say that they are displeased about their portrayal as shoddy builders. Facts, fact, facts. They will evolve, I hope.

  7. GOS

    NYT apologised and quickly. Explained behaviour and pointed to errors.

    Name one Irish newspaper or station that would do the same?

    1. Rowsdower

      They didnt apologise. They said people misinterpreted them, its less an apology and more of a “You’re too stupid to understand me, so its your fault”

      1. Frilly Keane

        They backtracked
        And explained themselves
        Tried ta’ anyway
        And they won’t be so quick to assume the position on student paddies again

        So
        Give over
        You’re just being a ûnt now

  8. Kieran NYC

    Wow. Seems like a few people here just turned up to troll the deaths of six people.

    Broadsheet used not be like that.

    1. Joe the Lion

      How many crappy buildings do you think there are in our own country? This week alone the government whose job it is to provide building regulations standards wrote to the county councils asking them not to enforce building standards. Yet folks here are whinging on about some pretty nasty guff on the NYT? Physician heal thyself.

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