Jennifer Mykytyn has been fighting to honor her son for five years and finally got a hearing to ask South Carolina lawmakers to require inspections for balconies so no one else would die the way her son was killed.
Mykytnn’s trip wasn’t successful, but it wasn’t fruitless either. Lawmakers asked her to share more information about the bill she was pushing to require inspections of all wooden balconies on all hotels, apartments, time shares, dormitories and other multifamily dwellings and said they would take it up again later.
Mykytyn has successfully fought for similar laws in Massachusetts, where her 32-year-old son died in 2008, and in Maryland where she was living at that time.
Mykytyn told a Senate subcommittee last month that her son slipped while walking on the second-floor balcony just after watching the Super Bowl, falling into the rotted wood railing, which gave way. His family found out during a lawsuit that the owner of the rental building knew about problems with the balcony, but didn’t make it a priority to fix.
“He always had an excuse about why he couldn’t get around to it,” Mykytyn said.
The South Carolina Labor, Licensing and Regulation Department would be responsible for any new inspections and told lawmakers as written, the bill had a lot of uncertainty.
“We’re not aware of any inventories of all the balconies in the state,” said Katie Phillips, the agency’s director of governmental affairs.
Engineers with the agency said it would be hard to make sure wooden balconies were properly attached to buildings by sight and would need to alter the fastenings to make sure they were adequate, Phillips said.
Phillips estimated it would cost around $175,000 to hire the two inspectors and an administrative assistant to run a new inspection program.
The subcommittee voted to skip over a vote on the bill, asking Mykytyn to gather more information and stressing that didn’t mean they thought her proposal didn’t have merit.
“This is something I want to spend time on,” said Republican Sen. Wes Climer of Rock Hill.
Other senators told Mykytyn they weren’t trying to bury the bill and if she could share more information on how the laws she helped create in Massachusetts and Maryland were being implemented, that would help.
Republican state Rep. Sylleste Davis of Moncks Corner came to the hearing with Mykytyn and has her own similar bill in the House, which has yet to have a hearing.
After the Senate bill was carried over, Davis told Mykytyn to gather all the information and mail it to senators because it was more likely to get their attention than through email.
Mykytyn said she spend a few days gathering the information. She said she is still encouraged that the bill can get passed this year.
But one thing stuck in her mind from the hearing.
“When I said what is a life worth, I guess I now know – $175,000,” Mykytyn said.
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