Nova Scotia

Halifax deck collapse victim blames building owner, city

One of the victims of this weekend's deck collapse in south-end Halifax is blaming the building owner and the Halifax Regional Municipality for the accident.

6 people recovering from injuries after 3rd-floor deck collapsed onto 2nd-floor deck

Building inspectors examined the house where a balcony collapse early Saturday injured six. (CBC)

One of the victims of this weekend's deck collapse in south-end Halifax is blaming the building owner and the Halifax Regional Municipality for the accident.

Kataleen Webb was at a party at a house on Brussels Street and took to social media to describe how she and five other students plummeted 10 metres to the ground.

"My hand went into my thigh and I felt a huge laceration and lots of blood," she wrote in a post on Facebook.

"This happened because of negligence on the building owner's part as well as Halifax and the people who built the balcony."

Webb and five other people are still recovering after the third-storey deck in the backyard came crashing down onto a second-floor deck during a house party.

CBC News has learned that a number of the injured have contacted a law firm and they're considering whether a lawsuit may be appropriate.

On Monday, the home on Brussels Street was guarded by security guards who made sure only tenants got inside the building.

The landlord for the property is Darin Sweet. CBC News has been unsuccessful in its attempts to reach Sweet over the past three days.

Inspectors with the Halifax Regional Municipality visited the scene on Monday. They had little to say after finishing up at the site. The city is reviewing whether the building is safe for occupancy and in the meantime, tenants are still allowed to live there.

Two inspections

According to the municipality's bylaws, homeowners have to seek a permit when they construct a new deck or renovate an existing one. Inspectors examine it twice: once before the deck is built and again after the deck is complete. 

"Those would be the only inspections unless there was a complaint about an issue on site, or if there was a further change to the existing structure," said Tiffany Chase, a spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Prior to 2008, the municipality's inspectors held homeowners to national building code standards during these inspections. In 2008, the Halifax Regional Municipality brought in its own more stringent requirements, which all recently built decks must meet. 

"The ongoing maintenance of those structures and your property as well, really lies with the property owner," said Chase.

"We do say that people should make an annual inspection of their own deck on site, and if you're not sure what to look for then you can hire a professional to come in and do that for you."

Ryan Frizzell, a second-year Dalhousie University student who lives a few doors down from the scene, said he was on the phone when he heard screeching and a loud crash. At first he thought it was a car accident.

"I looked outside and there was ambulances all up and down the street, fire trucks, everything," he said.

'Sad state of affairs'

Frizzell didn't know any of the tenants, but he said the incident has shocked the neighbourhood.

Neighbour Ryan Frizzell heard the noise and thought it was a car accident. (CBC)

"People are just trying to have a good time. They've trusted that their landlord, everything's fine in the house," he said. "For something like that to happen, it's awful."

A newspaper clipping from 2002 shows the deck was part of a controversial addition to the original home.

According to court documents and an article by the now defunct Halifax Daily News, there was backlash from neighbours when the owner at the time attempted to turn the house into two apartments.

The issue went to court and the owner was ordered to pay thousands of dollars to the city.

Paul Pettipas, the CEO of the Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association, went to the site on Saturday to see the damage for himself.

"This was a sad state of affairs,” he said Monday.

“In my opinion there was no maintenance done on this deck and the landlord's responsible."

Emma Langlois, who lives in another building where Sweet is the landlord, told CBC News in an email the management company of her property emailed tenants saying they hired a structural engineer to ensure this would not happen again.

"We have no concerns about the safety of anything in our house," she wrote.

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