Centretown balcony collapse sends 4 to hospital

Seven people were hurt and four of them hospitalized after a second-floor balcony collapsed on a central Ottawa low-rise apartment building Halloween night.

All expected to survive Frank Street incident

Ottawa Fire Services were one of the emergency crews that responded to a balcony collapse in central Ottawa Oct. 31, 2021. (Scott Stilborn/Ottawa Fire Services)

Seven people were hurt, four of them hospitalized, in the collapse of a second-floor balcony at a central Ottawa low-rise apartment building Halloween night.

Ottawa paramedics said they got the call to the three-storey building on Frank Street between Elgin and Metcalfe streets just before 10 p.m.

Paramedics said they checked seven people at the scene and took four to the hospital. Three of those four had minor injuries and the other fractured their femur. All were in their 20s.

Nobody was on the first floor balcony at the time, paramedics said. Ottawa police said they are not investigating.

WATCH | Neighbours describe what collapse sounded like: 

Neighbours describe hearing metal and glass breaking as balcony collapsed

2 years ago
Duration 1:02
Featured VideoSeven people were injured on Halloween night after a second-floor balcony collapsed. Neighbours say they heard “a huge crash” as the incident occurred around 10 p.m.

'Accidents waiting to happen'

The balcony collapse happened just over a kilometre south of Parliament Hill and about two blocks from the Canadian Museum of Nature.

"I'm actually surprised it doesn't happen more often," said Brenda Hollingsworth, a personal injury lawyer in Ottawa

"A lot of the [buildings] in our city — the older residences, especially in the downtown core — are older. And you can see signs of wear and tear on balconies."

Balconies, particularly those attached to aging buildings, should be assessed "every couple of years" as wood can rot away in Ottawa's climate, Hollingsworth said.

She said it's ultimately the building owner's responsibility to ensure their properties are safe for visitors, tenants or businesses. 

"These are accidents waiting to happen, if balconies aren't inspected on a regular basis," Hollingsworth said.

Yellow caution tape is strung up outside a Frank Street apartment in downtown Ottawa one day after seven people were injured in a balcony collapse. (Buntola Nou/CBC)

Owner ordered to make repairs

In a Monday afternoon statement to CBC, City of Ottawa inspections manager Norm Allen said the building code services department has issued orders to the owner to "undertake a wide range of work to make the area safe and repair the structure."

"If staff determine that the property owner is not complying with the orders, further action, including financial penalties, may be taken," Allen said. 

While collapses are "rare but occasional," even the best-maintained balconies will degrade over time, said Justin Tudor, the Ottawa-based president of Keller Engineering.

That said, a well-designed balcony without serious structural issues should not typically collapse simply because of the number of people on it, Tudor said.

"If the balcony is designed to code, and it was installed properly, the building code has a lot of redundancy built into it to ensure that there can't be a situation where people on a balcony cause it to collapse in normal conditions," he said.

With files from Joseph Tunney and Nicole Williams

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