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Did overcrowding cause tragic balcony collapse?

Officials are trying to determine what caused a fifth-floor apartment balcony in Berkeley, California, to collapse early Tuesday morning, killing six people and leaving several others injured.

Many of those killed and injured in the collapse were college students from Ireland who were visiting for the summer. Officials say that the students were celebrating a 21st birthday when 13 students crammed onto the balcony.

At about 12:30 a.m., a sharp crack occurred when the small metal-rail balcony broke loose from the building and fell to the fourth-floor balcony. The students fell about 50 feet onto the pavement, officials said. 

Now investigators are attempting to figure out the cause of the tragic collapse. The chairman of the structural standards committee of the Structural Engineers Association of California said they will be looking into whether the balcony was built to code if the weather could have caused it to weaken.

However, they will also explore whether the balcony may have been overloaded at the time, he said. At least one structural engineer told the Associated Press that the balcony seemed too small to hold the 13 people that were crammed onto it.

In tragic situations like these, the victims and their families often want to blame someone or something for what happened. This is understandable, since being injured or losing a loved one in an accident is an extremely traumatic thing to go through.

But in some cases, there really is no one to blame. If the structural engineer who spoke with the Associated Press is correct, the cause of the collapse could simply be that too many students were on the balcony at once.

Although this wouldn’t give the victims and their families the sense of justice like they probably want, it’s crucial that the truth comes out so that additional lives aren't ruined unfairly.  

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