Apartment complex cited for violations after Saturday's balcony collapse

By Laura Geller - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond inspectors say old age is the cause of a balcony collapse that injured five people in Richmond this weekend.

City inspectors back on scene at the Forest Place Apartments, along with property managers and the city council representative. They're trying to figure out how to prevent something like Saturday's collapse from ever happening again. They all say action is necessary.

Frances Nelson was shocked to find a frightening scene Saturday.  The balcony five of her relatives were standing on tumbled to the ground, leaving them writhing in pain.

"I was scared. I thought my brother had died. I thought my cousins had died. It was a very dramatic situation," said Nelson.

Nelson says her brother complained to the manager about the unstable porch when he moved in. Property managers tell us they are unaware of the complaints. But bringing those complaints to the City or requesting a free inspection is the only way to make sure this doesn't happen to you.

City inspectors describe the collapse like this: "What happened was age, deterioration and wood rot."

Building code is clear about this: after construction is complete, the rules do not require any sort of mandatory inspections. But after yet another incident with near tragic results, Councilman Marty Jewell says something needs to change.

"If you're going to inspect elevators, if you're going to inspect bridges, you ought to inspect decks and porches above the first floor," said Jewell.

After the City inspected and cited Forest Place Monday, the owners are thinking about removing or replacing the balconies altogether. Building inspectors say if Jewell's proposal passes city attorney scrutiny, they're willing to comply. This could lead to a shift of resources and priorities.

"With the age of the buildings that we've got in this old city it ought to be something routine in the consciousness of every citizen in this city," Jewell said.

Councilman Jewell is going to work with the city attorney to figure out exactly what papers can be filed. In the meantime, if you have a concern about your deck, whether you're a renter or a property owner, you can call 646-0620 for a free deck inspection.

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