Collapsed balcony didn't meet safety rules

Sarah Kajoba and Cheryl Taylor died after the balcony attached to a Melbourne home gave way.
Sarah Kajoba and Cheryl Taylor died after the balcony attached to a Melbourne home gave way.

A balcony that collapsed, killing two women during a Melbourne Christmas party, didn't meet safety requirements and was poorly maintained, a coroner has found.

Sarah Kajoba and Cheryl Taylor died after the balcony attached to a Doncaster East home gave way during an end of year Tupperware celebration in December 2017.

In findings released on Thursday, Coroner Paresa Spanos said the case highlighted the risk of complacency by owners and occupiers when it came to timber balconies.

The women had been at Christmas party thrown by their Tupperware sales directors Chris and Yvonne Nunn at their rented home in December 2017.

They gathered for a group photo when the timber balcony gave way beneath them, collapsing on to the concrete and paved area below.

Ms Spanos found, after hearing evidence at an inquest last year, that the balcony had not complied with industry standards either at the time or in 1987 when it was first constructed.

She found the main load beam for the balcony, which was home to a stocked fridge, barbecue and pizza oven, was too small. Combined with poor maintenance, it had provided inadequate support.

Ms Spanos said the situation quickly descended from a celebration to a multi-trauma scene.

Ms Taylor, 59, died at the home, while Ms Kajoba, 37, was taken to hospital suffering a severe traumatic brain injury and later died.

Victorian hospitals treated another 34 people who were injured as a result of 15 separate balcony collapses between March 2004 and June 2019, figures Ms Spanos said highlighted the need for increased awareness and safety measures.

She has recommended the Victorian Building Authority consider developing a system for certifying newly constructed balconies, and a requirement that notices be attached to balconies warning building owners and occupiers about not exceeding capacity and of the need for regular inspection and maintenance.

She also recommended continued efforts by VBA to improve public awareness about the need for regular inspections and maintenance, particularly for timber balconies.

State Building Surveyor Andrew Cialini said the VBA was actively working through the recommendations.

"We have already begun reinforcing the importance of inspections of framework and increasing public awareness of the need for regular inspections and maintenance of balconies and decks," he said.

Australian Associated Press