Inspector: Old age caused 2 balconies to collapse at Greeley apartment building

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GREELEY, Colo. -- We now know what caused the collapse of two balconies at an apartment complex in Greeley Monday night. Greeley’s Chief Building Inspector Tim Jackson said old age and obsolete construction practices caused them to fall.

The balconies at Ridgestone Apartments at 1126 26th Avenue were built 45 years ago, in July 1970.

They were secured to the building using three-and-a-half inch nails.

But today’s building standards require much larger, oversized screws.

It was a warm evening Monday.

Families trying to cool off on their balconies, when relaxation turned to terror.

“I heard a crack. Next thing I know, we were falling,” said victim Cristi Myers.

She fell from a third floor balcony, about 20 feet, spraining her ankle and severely cutting her toe, requiring stitches.

“All of a sudden, we heard this huge crash, like a car crash,” said neighbor Melanie Hader.

Two balconies crashed--one on top of the other.

“They had kids up on this one (second floor) and two adults on the top one and they all collapsed down,” witness Dakota Moore, 13, said.

Seven people fell, including Cristian Bustamente, 13, who was with a group of two other small children and two adults on the second floor balcony.

“I thought it was like an earthquake,” he said.

But what shook him up the most was an injury to a 2-year-old girl.

“She had a cut right here, (he points to his forehead)  then I couldn’t do anything for her,” said Bustamente.

Neighbors jumped into action to pull victims from the debris: heavy wood planks, chairs, a table and a bike.

“I tried to help. I was grabbing boards, throwing them off,” Moore said.

Jackson said the nails in the second floor balcony pulled out from the wall--dragging down the third floor balcony.

The city said it does not require any sort of inspections of balconies or decks after they’ve been built.

“Any maintenance falls back to the responsibility of the owner. So we literally have not looked at that deck since it was built in 1970,” Jackson said.

“That’s not right. Hopefully they’ll do something,” said victim Michelle Trujillo, who was also on the third floor balcony with Myers when it collapsed.

And do something soon, because if it happened once, it could happen again.

“I told my son don’t go on the balcony. We are going to talk to the manager. I don’t want anybody on there until we know,” Hader said.

“Everybody was lucky. It could have been worse,” Myers said.

Tuesday, the owner of the building pulled city permits to reinforce the other balconies on the property.

In the meantime, he’s requiring tenants to stay off of them.

And Jackson will send out letters to owners of other buildings in the neighborhood, strongly advising them to check their balconies for safety.

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