Gerhard Becker, German Architect, Charged With Manslaughter After His Hollywood Mansion Collapses on L.A. Firefighter
Almost exactly one year ago, Los Angeles was stricken by the death of veteran firefighter Glenn Allen. While fighting a midnight mansion fire in the Hollywood Hills, the roof collapsed under 61-year-old Allen's feet -- enough to kill the local hero, just one day before he would have become a grandfather.
But now his mourners may have a reason to get angry:
Gerhard Albert Becker, the 48-year-old German-born architect who designed the house and oversaw its construction (as well as lived in it), is being charged with involuntary manslaughter...
Here's how Allen died, from the LA Weekly's original report on his death:
Allen was standing on the roof of a 6,000-square-foot mansion in Dane Cook's Sunset Plaza neighborhood when, according to L.A. Fire Captain Jaime Moore, the area between the roof and the ceiling became so soaked with water escaping from a burned-through sprinkler pipe, that the top of the house caved in. ... In order to pull him out from under the rubble, his fellow firefighters resorted to using a chainsaw.
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At the time, the L.A. Fire Department believed that a "natural gas-fueled fireplace" may have sparked the blaze, spreading to the walls and ceiling while the mansion's residents were sleeping.
Officials are saying the same thing today. But a yearlong investigation of Becker's blueprint reveals that its shortcomings may have ultimately caused the firefighter's death. Via the Los Angeles Times:
Prosecutors allege that Becker, a German national, built an 18-foot "fire trough" through the home despite being warned of the dangers it may cause. It was described as an oversize indoor fire pit. ...
They said the attic was equipped with plastic pipes for fire sprinklers. The fire melted the pipes, flooding the attic and filling the insulation with water. The weight of the insulation appears to have caused a large section of the ceiling to collapse, injuring Allen and five other firefighters, officials said.
Plastic pipes? Sounds downright amateur.
But the fire trough would have been a rich trendster's dream, and Becker had big plans for the house: It was reportedly set to host "Germany's Next Topmodel," a knockoff of the American version hosted by Heidi Klum. RadarOnline reported that five models had been slated to move in one week later.
The LAFD blog lists the address of the mansion as 1546 North Viewsite Drive. Strangely, there are two matches for that address online. But SoCal door company Weiland has photos on its website of a three-story Hollywood Hills mansion, designed by Becker, that more closely fits other descriptions of his former palace:
At the scene of the fire, the Times interviewed a woman who said she was Becker's girlfriend. She said her boyfriend owned the property, and that "city inspectors had just approved a certificate of occupancy days ago," the Times reported.
However, shortly after, Becker took off for Spain -- and only just returned last Saturday. (We found what appears to be his LinkedIn profile, which says he was working at the Finca Giardino S.L. architecture firm over there.)
L.A. law enforcement was obviously on the lookout, because cops arrested him moments after his flight touched down at LAX. Though he has since entered a "not guilty" plea in response to the charges, the suspect was served a staggering bail of $2 million at his downtown L.A. arraignment today.
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