A birthday celebration turned deadly when a fourth-floor balcony at a California apartment building collapsed recently, killing six. The accident also seriously injured seven others. According to reports, all of the victims - most of them Irish students studying at nearby UC Berkeley - were on the balcony at the time of the collapse. The cause of the accident is under investigation, but photos show the detached but largely intact balcony resting on another balcony directly beneath.
Photos taken after the accident show extensive rot in what remained of the stucco-clad balcony framing. And according to a story in the San Jose Mercury News, a structural engineer who examined photos of the accident indicated that the rot caused the collapse. There don't appear to be any vents on the underside of the balcony that would allow moisture to escape the assembly in the event of leakage, either from the surface-mounted railing posts or from faulty flashing at the door or balcony-to-house intersection. It also appears that the structure was framed with standard rather than treated doug-fir lumber, as no incise-marks are visible. You can view more photos of the balcony here.