An official inspection of 1715 Broad Street has provided further insight into the possible cause behind the balcony collapse on the night of Sept. 10, which led to the hospitalization of nearly 30 Trinity students.
While investigating the structural integrity of the property, Inspector Patrick Looney, an official from the Connecticut Office of the State Building Inspector, sent this text message to his supervisor: “porch failure was [due] to no bolts were used to attach to house,” the Hartford Courant reports.
The splintering of the top deck from the side of the house precipitated the triple-decker collapse.
Inspector Looney took photographs of the rubble that reveal nails protruding out of the ends of several of the wooden panels, indicating that the top deck had been nailed to the house.
Attaching a balcony to the side of a house solely with nails is outlawed by both Connecticut state regulation and Federal regulation due to the dangers of instability. Standard practice typically includes the use of other materials, such as bolts, to fortify the construction.
According to city records, the house was built before 1925. There are currently no records of building permits for the property and there is uncertainty as to whether a deck was already attached to the property before Trinity acquired it in September 2011.
Evidence of city inspections has yet to be uncovered. As of now, the city’s Department of Licensing and Inspections has found no record of inspections of the property.
SML Real Estate manages the property, in addition to 12 other properties, for Trinity College. In a statement obtained by the Courant, attorney Jon L. Schoenhorn said that SML Real Estate “does not provide nor contract for structural inspections and improvements to those buildings.”
When contacted for comment Kathy Andrews, the College’s spokesperson, indicated that Trinity has plans to share additional information related to the cause of the balcony collapse within a week and will be responding to questions then.
While not pointing to a conclusive cause of the collapse, this inspector’s findings regarding the use of nails does provide another piece to the puzzle in understanding this devastating disaster. It is to the credit of the Trinity community and the selfless actions of fellow students – from acting as first responders, calling 911, pulling peers from under the rubble – that the incident was not fatal.