"It didn't look real": first responders describe the Berkeley balcony collapse, for the first time

The first responders who arrived on scene the night a balcony collapsed in Berkeley recounted that harrowing night in a sit-down interview with KTVU’s Claudine Wong.

The balcony at the library gardens apartment complex in Berkeley was packed full of young people celebrating a friend's 21st birthday on June 16, 2015.  Then it gave way, killing six people and injuring seven more.

“As soon as the first officers got on [scene] they called for more officers,” said Joseph Ledoux, a Berkeley police officer, ”they were calling for more it didn't sound good.”  He added, “it almost looked like a training event it didn’t look real there was people covered in blood people asking for help.”

As they were working to rescue as many people as they could, the dislodged balcony was still hanging perilously above them.  They wanted to save everyone, but couldn’t, so they focused on survivors. 

“She put her hand across her body and it was like okay, at least somebody's alive, at least we got some kind of movement,” said Jitendra Singh, another Berkeley police officer who was called to the scene.

But even as shifts finally ended and first responders began to clear and leave the scene, they couldn’t leave what happened behind.

“I’ll never forget I was taking my boots off and there was blood on my boots and taking my uniform pants off and then blood  had gone through my pants and was dried up on my legs,” said Ledoux.

“It reminds me that I'm also human, I'm also a person, and I also will feel the certain emotions that everyone else does; it was okay to feel grief and sadness and helplessness,” said Norma Chappell, one of the police officers who responded from Berkeley PD.

These officers say they grieved with the victims’ families and found comfort in the gratitude shown to them by the Irish community.  And they say they are reminded that helping people is part of who they are.

Joseph Ledoux said: “It’s our job, we don't need awards, we don't need to be recognized we are going to go out and take the next call that's our job that’s what we signed up for.”