Vic coroner probes fatal balcony collapse

Two women died after a balcony collapsed during a Tupperware staff Christmas Party in Melbourne.
Two women died after a balcony collapsed during a Tupperware staff Christmas Party in Melbourne.

Guests at a Tupperware staff party were celebrating Christmas and the end of the year on what was supposed to be a fun afternoon in December 2017.

Between snacking and speeches the colleagues and friends were coming together for a group photo when some heard cracks.

There was a "moment of suspension" between when six metre wide section of the balcony they stood on broke and when it fell nearly three metres to the ground.

Croydon mum and sales manager Cheryl Taylor , 59, and Reservoir woman Sarah Kajoba, 37, had been sitting on lounge chairs in the middle of the deck at the Melbourne house and plunged 2.7 metres to a paved area below.

Ms Taylor died at the scene while Ms Kajoba was rushed to hospital with catastrophic and ultimately fatal injuries.

Twenty-six other people also fell and suffered a range of injuries.

An inquest is now examining whether the original balcony was fit for occupancy, whether the balcony in its enlarged state complied with permits and the feasibility of a rating system for balconies

Manningham Council building surveyor Russell Mills said the balcony, constructed in the mid-1980s, didn't comply with original building permits and modifications had since been made.

Floor joists ran the opposite direction to those on the approved plan, a staircase had been constructed at the back of the deck and a verandah over the top.

The area below the deck had also been excavated.

"A number of defects and age-related deficiencies were located including weathering and decaying of structural members," he said.

The party hosts were renting the Doncaster East property.

The owner has since complied with orders to replace the balcony and the inquest heard the owner is getting quotes to demolish the property entirely.

Three other experts are due to give evidence at the inquiry before coroner Paresa Spanos, who saw the balcony the day after the collapse.

The injured are planning to seek compensation and lawyer Lily Boskovski, representing six of the 17 people injured, says the psychological scars cannot be underestimated.

"They've witnessed their coworkers die. I can't even imagine how it might feel to one minute be enjoying a party and then saving yourself from dying," she told AAP last year.

Australian Associated Press