Three men and three women died after a fourth floor balcony of a U.S. apartment complex gave way. Those dead include five Irish students and a young woman.
Seven others were severely injured and were taken to the Highland Hospital in Oakland, where they currently remain, following the collapse of the balcony at about 12:40 a.m., authorities in California said. Berkeley Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Coats said that most of those hurt suffered life threatening injuries.
The Irish students, celebrating someone’s 21st birthday when they fell to their deaths from the balcony at the Library Gardens Apartments, were in the US on short-term work visas, according to Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan.
Those dead were identified as Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, and Lorcan Miller, all 21 years old, Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department said.
Ashley Donohoe, 22, from California also died.
Images of the scene of the accident hours later obtained from a video from CNN affiliate KGO showed the fourth floor railing sitting upside down on the railing of the balcony below it. The fourth floor balcony seemed to have disjointed from the building.
Although the circumstances surrounding the collapse are under investigation and yet to be determined, city’s police chief said the possibility of a criminal activity was unlikely.
According to BBC, Philip Grant, the Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, said, “We’re still in an emergency response mode. It’s a formative experience, and to have this happen … has left us all frozen in shock and disbelief.”
In a statement, Flanagan said, “Today is an horrific day for those who lost loved ones. The students and their families have been at the center of our thoughts and actions.”
The deceased Irish students were working in Berkeley on J-1 visas, Mark Neville said. Neville, a visa holder who is staying in the apartment complex, said that he wasn’t at the party nor did he know anyone there.
He “heard a loud bang” when the accident occurred. He was sleeping in the first floor unit.
He said, “I went out to get a friend, and I just saw the place (outside) was covered in rubble. Bodies had been taken away in ambulances. It was tough to see.”
University of California-Berkeley, merely three miles from the apartment complex where the accident occurred, couldn’t say whether the deceased were affiliated with it, university representative Roqua Montez said.
Andrew Deeks, president of University College Dublin, said that some of the students in the accident were from the university, while the others were their friends.
Deeks said, “We cannot comprehend the desperate shock and grief they are feeling and we are heartbroken at their suffering and loss. We know the local Irish community has been offering assistance and solidarity and we thank them for this.”
The owner of the building was informed to have the other balconies of the apartment complex inspected, according to officials.
In 2013, the collapse of a deck holding revelers in Chicago caused the deaths of 13 people in addition to injuring more than 50 others. As reported by CBS Chicago, more than 60 people were on the building’s porches.
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