While every summer brings its share of warm weather injuries, it seems that 2015 has been particularly and unfortunately eventful regarding deck, porch, and balcony collapses. The first major collapse occurred in Berkley, California in June. The collapse took the lives of 6 students and severely injured seven more. The cause of this collapse was found to be improper weather proofing and water sealing that caused the support beams to weaken until a catastrophic failure resulted in the balcony pulling away from the building and plummeting to the ground. Another high profile deck collapse that occurred this summer happened when 16 students from Cedarville University gathered on a deck to take a photograph. Eight were injured in this collapse. However these collapses are only the most heavily covered by the media. Other deck collapse incidents include:
- Two balconies collapsed at a Greely, Colorado apartment building due to old age in July. A deck in Grand Rapids Township Michigan collapsed during a woman’s 80th birthday party in August.
- Seven people were hospitalized after a DeKalb County, Georgia deck collapse in May.
- Three were injured after a July 15th deck collapse in New Bedford, MA. A deck collapsed at a children’s birthday party in Monsey, NJ.
- The preliminary cause was stated to be rotted wood and rusted bolts. A June 13th deck collapse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania sent a toddler, two children, and one adult to the hospital. One person was injured after a Penn State balcony overhang fell on July 27th.
These are just a few of the deck collapse situations that have occurred in the last year. Unfortunately two recent incidents can be added on to this, admittedly, incomplete list. A second deck collapse occurred in Emerald Island, South Carolina and a third family was removed from a vacation home after an inspection found the facility to be unsafe. Additionally, five people were hospitalized after a late-July deck collapse in Columbia, Maryland.
Reasons Behind the Second Vacation Home Deck Collapse
An August 11th deck collapse at a home on Ocean Avenue in Emerald Isle caused nine injuries. One of the injured sustained multiple foot fractures due to the collapse the resulting fall. According to news reports, an 8 feet by 20 feet section of the deck collapsed. The section of the deck that collapsed was located near the center of the home. The deck detached from the house and subsequently plummeted to the ground. Investigators have stated that they believe the accident was caused by the rotted wood and rusted fasteners that were discovered following the collapse. According to town records, the last work on the deck was performed about 11years ago in 2004. In light of multiple incidents this summer, the town of Emerald Isle has provided home and property owners with a Citizen’s Guide to Deck Safety. The guide lists a number of common deck problems including:
- Split or decaying wood
- Problems with flashing
- Insecure railings and handrails
- Loose or corrodes fasteners
- Insufficient cleaning and maintenance.
The guide also puts homeowners in the town on notice that the costal, marine climate requires maintenance in excess of what one would be required to perform for a more inland buildings. The guide urges homeowners to use materials that are resistant to the harsh effects of the moist, salty coastal air such as hot-dip zinc-coated galvanized steel, silicon bronze, and stainless steel.
Columbia Deck Collapse Investigation Completed
The investigation into a collapse in Columbia, Maryland has been completed. The cause of the collapse appears to be multifaceted in that the deck that collapsed was built to standards that did not require the deck to be free-standing. According to the inspector, building codes have not required decks to be free-standing until recently in the past 5 to 10 years. Homeowners who have a deck that was built earlier, would be prudent to not only engage in regular maintenance but also to bring in a professional to ensure that the deck is up to current code and safety standards. “Here, the gravity load was still applied against the house. According to investigators the collapse was due to a fundamental structural failure. The investigator stated the reason for the collapse was that “…the actual rim joints of the house itself appear to have rotted out and caused that to pull away. It’s like if you tried to screw a board into a sponge. It’s just not going to hold.”
Injured in a Deck, Porch, or Balcony Collapse?
If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury in a deck, porch, or balcony collapse contact the experienced personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm. For decades injured people have trusted our experienced lawyers to fight to obtain compensation for their injuries. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation call us at (215) 246-9000 today.