Investigation Into Trinity College Deck Collapse Finds Construction Flaws

An investigation into the deck collapse at off-campus Trinity College housing that injured 32 students has revealed that two decks on the house were structurally deficient and collapsed because of construction flaws. 

On Saturday, Sept. 10, a third-floor balcony at 1713-1715 Broad St. in Hartford collapsed onto the second-floor balcony, which then collapsed on the first floor during a student party and officials from Trinity College in Hartford released the findings this afternoon from an independent investigation done by Cirrus Structural Engineering. 

It says investigators found the two elevated decks to be structurally deficient relative to “code requirements, engineering principles and general best practice.” and that “the failure of the rear elevated decks at 1713-1715 Broad Street was primarily caused by construction flaws...” 

Engineers also noted that that corrosion from the elements led to weakened support for the decks. 

Officials from Trinity College said 32 students sustained a range of injuries during the collapse and all have returned to campus and classes. 

Of them, four people were on the third-floor deck and seven to 10 were on the second floor. 

Trinity College bought the building at 1713-1715 Broad St. in 2011 and officials said five students who lived in the 1713-1715 Broad St. property have been relocated to on-campus housing. 

“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. 

Key findings based on Trinity College’s and the City of Hartford’s records and the work of Cirrus Structural Engineering: 

  • 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 St. 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 said they have examined, or will examine their 35 off-campus properties, beginning with the 16 residential properties. 

The school’s 16 residential properties house Trinity graduate students, faculty or staff, as well as non-Trinity renters. The other buildings are used as offices and academic and social spaces or are unoccupied, according to Trinity and they said each property 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,” Dan Hitchell, vice president of finance and operations, said. He joined the College in July 2016 and oversees facilities. “We are now inspecting all off-campus properties and will enact new procedures to ensure that all buildings that the College owns are safe.” 

Engineers found that there was a chain reaction, which started with the contractor’s failure to replace the original 1925 second-floor deck ledger and its fasteners and subsequent corrosion because of the lack of protective flashing above, which caused the nails to become corroded to the point where they could not stand the capacity on the decks.

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