On June 29, 2003, there was a large party filled with Chicagoan young professionals taking place at an apartment building in Lincoln Park neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. The apartment building had first, second, and third story balconies. There were large congregations of young adults out on the second and third floor balconies that night enjoying the festivities and a warm summer night in Chicago.
About fifty people were on the third floor balcony when, shortly after midnight, the balcony collapsed. The balcony came down taking the second and third floor balconies down into the basement with it. After the wreckage was scoured and all people were recovered and accounted for it was determined 11 people had died (two more died of injuries) and 57 more people were injured.
The collapse caused much controversy in Chicago, especially over the company LG Properties, the company which owned the property and had the balconies built. Part of the blame went to overcrowding with many people saying the balconies should not have had more than thirty people on it at one time. However, poor construction was ultimately to blame.
For starters, the porch was built illegally without a permit. There were also a multitude of building code violations: The balconies jutted out a foot farther from the building than codes allowed, the area was 81 square feet larger than was permitted, the supports were inadequate, the floor was built with undersized lengths of wood, and the screws used to attach the balcony to the wall were too short.
After an investigation, it was found that 21 other buildings owned by Philip Pappas, president of LG Properties, also had similar violations. Pappas was fine $108,000 for the building code violations. In addition, Pappas was sued by 27 affected families. In the end, the balcony was built with steel and obeyed the building codes.
This incident could have been avoided and thirteen young people would not have lost their lives that night had the owners and contractors gotten a permit and built within the parameters of the building codes. Though the balcony collapsed due to overcrowding and overloading, it could have withstood that loading had it been soundly built.