Balcony collapse: 'You could see something bad was going to happen'

Balcony collapse: 'You could see something bad was going to happen'

The early morning clean-up of broken bottles and rubbish is nothing compared to the human carnage of last night, when a balcony collapsed during a special Six60 concert in north Dunedin.

Concertgoers tried desperately to pull the balcony away after it fell 3 metres, landing on revellers below.

Police had earlier tried to clear the overcrowded balconies and roofs, while after the fall, students lifted a van out of the way so emergency services could get in.

Witnesses described the scene as horrific, as the injured were carried out on stretchers and in wheelchairs.

"I saw a couple of my friends and they were literally underneath the balcony 50 seconds before it happened. They walked away because it was so crowded, and they were like, 'I am so shocked'," says Josh Williams.

Eighteen people were taken to Dunedin Hospital, two in a serious but stable condition. One was later flown to Christchurch with injuries including a broken pelvis.

Over 1,500 revellers crammed into the private courtyard surrounded by nine flats to watch the concert.

But one resident says they only had days' notice, and no control over the gig.

"Basically we were told that they were coming, and to not let too many people know," the resident says. "But then they went and put it on the radio and on Facebook. So we had people coming who we had no idea, through our gates the whole night."

The band deliberately moved their concert away from their old flat at 660 Castle St, because of problems with overcrowding in previous surprise gigs.

Before last night's concert started, bassist Chris Mac told Newshub the event was about celebrating the band's roots.

"This is home," said Mac. "So every year we try and make sure we either have a party at 660 Castle St, which is where we started, or, like tonight, put on a bit of a show and join some of the local acts and support them."

He said they played on with the support of the police; the band later tweeting they were "Very upset that people were hurt tonight. Massive thanks to local police and security who were working with us to help keep people safe".

The gig was a private event, but Otago University's Student Association (OUSA) has been out checking on residents.

"[It's] really quite sombre," says OUSA president Laura Harris. "I went down to A&E last night and there was just a lack of knowing which was causing a lot of uncertainty amongst them. And that's been reflected today by the ones that we've spoken to who are worried about their friends."

Support services are being offered to those affected as inquiries as to why the collapse happened are underway.

There had been repeated warnings before the collapse, but in the end they were all in vain.

The question today was: what led to the collapse?  Was it simple overcrowding or design failure?

Dunedin City Council staff went to the scene this morning to begin searching for an answer to that question.

"The photographs indicate that there was no rot, no maintenance issues and that the size was appropriate. Certainly the early indication is that everything was as it should have been," says Simon Pickford of Dunedin City Council.

A witness who filmed the collapse from a neighbouring balcony told Newshub the landlord had warned residents before the show to have no more than six people on the balcony at a time.

But in the end he says there had been close to 20, all dancing, when it collapsed.

"Really it's to do with loading rather than anything else," says Mr Pickford.

WorksafeNZ has made initial inquiries into the incident and says it will decide in a few days whether it launches a formal investigation.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment also says it will be looking at whether there are any design issues.

The council has asked neighbouring residents to stop using their balconies until it confirms this was a one-off incident due to overloading, and not a construction issue.