Original construction on a Folsom apartment stairway that collapsed and killed a 26-year-old man this month was not as secure as it could have been, city officials concluded in a report released Monday.
Chief Building Official Steve Burger said the stairway met the city’s building code. But, he said, the code sets only minimum standards and “hopefully most buildings are built above code.”
Dry rot was a main reason for the collapse, as the city previously stated, but the failure was hastened by the stairway no longer being properly secured to the building, according to a city summary report provided to The Sacramento Bee.
Burger “observed that the lag bolts appear to have pulled from the decayed wood, causing the stairway failure,” the report states.
The collapse killed Shun Xiang Yuan of San Francisco when he used the three-floor stairway at the Legends at Willow Creek, a 208-unit complex on South Lexington Drive.
The building’s owner, Gerson Bakar and Associates of San Francisco, has agreed to repair the stairway using a “through-bolt attachment technique with internal caulking that would not fail in the same manner,” the report states, adding that the new stairway will include features “designed to prevent water intrusion and wood decay.”
Folsom approved the construction by FF Development of San Diego in 2000, according to city records. That company is no longer licensed to build in California. A message left at a related business, Fairfield Residential, at the same address as the old contracting company, was not immediately returned Monday.
Burger, who sits on the legislative committee of California Building Officials, said he will ask the trade organization to study the use of wood for outdoor stairways.
He said improper maintenance likely played a role in the collapse, but added he has not confirmed that suspicion. Burger defended the city’s inspections of the complex, saying its responsibility for building safety ends when a structure is approved for occupancy unless the city receives a complaint about safety. He said the city did not receive such a complaint prior to Yuan’s death.
A company spokesman has confirmed that a stairway collapsed at the Legends one year before the one that killed Yuan. Following that collapse, the company received 19 building permits to fix dry rot and other problems, records show. Of those, only three of the permits have been approved as completed projects.
Mary Alexander, a San Francisco attorney representing Yuan’s family, has called on the District Attorney’s Office to file a criminal complaint based on the apartment manager’s prior knowledge of the dry rot problem.
Folsom Police Department spokesman Andrew Bates said his agency’s investigation is focused on the cause of Yuan’s death, including the general condition of the stairway that collapsed. But police so far are not investigating construction and maintenance of the stairs.
Steve Grippi, chief deputy district attorney, said last week that he has agreed to advise police in their investigation of Yuan’s death if asked.