Trinity says elevated decks that collapsed were ‘structurally deficient’

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HARTFORD – On Wednesday, Trinity College released the independent report of the balcony collapse at 1713-1715 Broad Street on September 10.

The report, conducted by Cirrus Structural Engineering, found the two elevated decks to be structurally deficient relative to “code requirements, engineering principles and general best practice.” The report further concluded that “the failure of the rear elevated decks at 1713-1715 Broad Street was primarily caused by construction flaws…”

“I express my sincere apologies that our students had to experience such a traumatic event and am grateful that all who were injured are back on campus. These students, their families, and all members of our community have my commitment to have all of Trinity’s off-campus buildings regularly inspected so that something like this does not occur again,” Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney said in a statement.

Based on Trinity College’s and the City of Hartford’s records and the work of Cirrus Structural Engineering, the key findings are:

  • Construction defects of the rear elevated decks included the lack of vertical load support, the use of improper fasteners, and failure to use protective flashing.
  • The rear decks at 1713-1715 Broad Street were reconstructed sometime between 1990 and 2003, although exact dates could not be determined; there is no record of the company responsible for the reconstruction.
  • The failure to reconstruct the decks in accordance with sound engineering principles and established “best practice” resulted in corrosion of the deck structure – the wooden beams, ledgers, and nails, which led to the gradual weakening of the deck structure and culminating with the decks being unable to support the weight placed upon them at the time of the accident, per Cirrus Engineering.

Trinity College owns 35 off-campus properties. Sixteen of these properties are residential and currently house Trinity graduate students, faculty, or staff, as well as non-Trinity renters. The remaining buildings are used as offices and academic and social spaces, or are unoccupied.

Each property, beginning with those where individuals live, has been or will be inspected by experts who will examine them for structural integrity, as well as the life safety, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems.

“For reasons unclear to us, no inspection was done at the time the 1713-1715 Broad Street building was purchased by the College in 2011,” Vice President of Finance and Operations Dan Hitchell, who joined the College in July 2016 and oversees facilities, said in a statement. “We are now inspecting all off-campus properties and will enact new procedures to ensure that all buildings that the College owns are safe.”

Thirty-two students experienced a range of injuries as a result of the deck collapse; all have returned to campus and classes. Five students who lived in the 1713-1715 Broad Street property have been relocated to on-campus housing.