Berkeley balcony collapse survivors remain in hospital
The seven Irish students who survived a balcony collapse in the college town of Berkeley, California, remain in hospital in varying states of recovery nearly a week later.
Father Aidan McAleenan of St Columba Catholic Church in Oakland says all of the students face long physical and mental recoveries, and they probably will not be returning to Ireland soon.
The students were on a balcony that snapped off the fifth floor of an apartment building on Tuesday during a birthday party. Five 21-year-old students from Ireland and a 22-year-old from California died.
A spokesman with John Muir hospital in Walnut Creek said two of the injured, Jack Halpin and Conor Flynn, are in fair condition today.
Representatives with two other hospitals directed reporters to the Irish Consulate, which did not return a call seeking comment.
The bodies of four of the six Irish students who died in the tragedy were brought back to Ireland on Sunday.
Relatives of the victims returned to Ireland on the same flight which landed on Sunday morning.
A garda escort then led hearses carrying the bodies of the victims from Dublin Airport onto the M50.
The families of the victims issued a poignant statement late last night in which they thanked the students who were in the apartment and apartment complex that fatal night.
The statement was issued by the Irish Consulate in San Francisco on behalf of the families of Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eimear Walsh
Olivia Burke's family will return to Ireland with her remains tomorrow.
While the families of Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eimear Walsh boarded a Dublin bound Aer Lingus flight last night to bring their children's remains home.
The statement said: “The manner and speed at which they reached out to our families, to our Consul, and to each other was faultless.
“Our children were extraordinarily blessed in their friends and we are enormously proud of them.
“As we leave Berkeley and return home to Ireland with our beloved sons and daughters we would like to thank everyone in America and Ireland for their sympathy and support, which has been a tremendous comfort to us at this tragic time.
“Particularly we thank the local authorities, emergency services, medical staff, parishes and communities of Berkeley. In addition we are forever grateful to Irish Consul Philip Grant and his local team, and also the amazing service and support received from Aer Lingus, the Department of Foreign Affairs, US Ambassador Anne Anderson, and a special appreciation to Minister Deenihan.
“We cannot thank enough the students that were in the apartment and apartment complex that night.”
Earlier the families of cousins Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke vowed to fight for changes to ensure that no other family will lose loved ones in similar accidents.
They said that all those involved in the tragedy were simply enjoying a 21st birthday party for a friend in what they thought was a safe environment.
“Unfortunately that turned to tragedy through no fault of their own,” the families said, after a joint funeral service for Ashley and Olivia at St Joseph’s Church, Sonoma County, before Olivia’s body was repatriated to Ireland.
The statement was read on behalf of the Donohoe and Burke families by Mr Rusty Rudick, a friend of the Donohoe family for 25 years.
He said : “On behalf of the Burke and Donohoe families we want to thank everyone for their ongoing support and prayers.
“We especially want to acknowledge the Irish Consulate for their immediate and overwhelming support for all families involved in this tragedy and the entire Berkeley community which stepped up in major time of need. Their support has been tremendous.
“We also want to thank the city of Berkeley, along with the Berkeley Police and Fire Departments and all of the first responders for their empathy and caring in such a difficult and tragic time for our families.
“Thank you to St Joseph Church for welcoming our family and friends.
“There were many other people and agencies who assisted. If I omitted anyone, I apologise.
“The family want everyone to know and understand that Ashley and Olivia were two intelligent talented and hard- working women. They had bright futures ahead of them.
“We will fight to make changes so that no family will ever have to go through what we have been through for the past five days which has changed our lives forever.
“Our daughters and all the other students were responsible young adults who were celebrating their friend’s 21st birthday in what they felt was a safe environment. Unfortunately that turned to tragedy through no fault of their own.
“The family asks that, in lieu of flowers or other donations, please make a donation to Cystic Fibrosis Ireland at www.cfireland.ie.