At 7:30 p.m. on 1 April, nine people were rushed to the hospital from a rented house on Highland Terrace, St. Lucia. The police report says that the balcony of the house collapsed whilst people were dancing. Five were taken to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital whilst the other four were taken to the Princess Alexandra Hospital. All of the victims are now in stable condition.

Julia Saleemi, one of the party-goers recounts what transpired and said that she didn’t think there were enough people on the balcony for it to break. She has photos to show and that there were only five to seven people on it when it collapsed.

Photo credit: Darren England

Photo credit: Darren England

“It was just horrendous to see, I was just next to it and just saw it, I just heard cries and screams,” Ms Saleemi said.

Matthew McGregor, Queensland Ambulance Senior Operations Supervisor spoke on the injuries sustained by the victims, “The injuries varied from cuts, contusions, abrasions to long bone fractures… I did view the balcony and the people involved are very lucky that they’ve only got minor injuries,” he said.

 

Past Balcony Accidents

The St. Lucia balcony accident is the most recent of several high-profile balcony accidents in Brisbane. In 2008, Brisbane experienced a tragic balcony collapse in Ascot, resulting in one death and 25 injuries. A study conducted in 2008 after the Ascot accident showed that there are 8,000 Australian timber balconies in properties built between 1970 and 1990 that are at risk of collapsing.

Photo credit: Paul Harris

Photo credit: Paul Harris

The Department of Housing and Public Works reports that a similar collapse occurred in 2010, when rusted nails in joists caused a balcony collapse that also resulted in death. One fatality was also recorded in 2012, in another collapse, this time due to a decayed decking board.

 

State Safety Recommendations

Following the rash of balcony-related accidents, Building Codes Queensland released their Deck, Balcony and Window Safety Guidelines in 2014.

The guidelines provide home-owners and industry professionals with useful advice about safety issues and related specifications required by law. Between 2002 and 2012, more than 20 people have died and hundreds of people injured in Queensland due to deck and balcony-related accidents. Proper home maintenance is recommended, as some collapses are due to decay and coastal effect.

Not many people realise that just 13 people gathered on a balcony can exert the same force as a small car placed in that balcony. This load increases greatly when people jump, dance or move around. In the St. Lucia incident, only five to seven people were dancing on the balcony when it collapsed.

Structural integrity is very important. Both the government and builders or home-owners should ensure compliance to code requirements to ensure safety. Home owners who would like to carry out renovation or construction work should ensure that they work with a contractor who is in the Queensland Building and Construction Commission’s roster of licensed contractors.

The recent St. Lucia balcony accident is a wake-up call for more thorough and meticulous inspection of balconies, and more vigilant monitoring from home-owners of their building and maintenance needs. Measures should be implemented to prevent fatalities and injuries from happening again. It is always better to be safe, than sorry.

Photo credit: Google Maps