Belfast Telegraph

Berkeley balcony collapse: Red tape adds to families' anguish as repatriation of victims delayed

By Shona Murray and Liam Kelly

The parents of the Irish students killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse are preparing to make the agonising journey home with their loved ones' remains this weekend.

But they are being frustrated by "bureaucratic red tape" which was delaying the process of repatriation last night.

Families of the five deceased Irish youngsters are still working closely with the authorities to bring home their loved ones, after three days of anguish.

The earliest departure is likely to be tomorrow - but sources said that Sunday is looking increasingly likely. A special flight has been provisionally booked with Aer Lingus for that day.

The Irish students who died on Tuesday - Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh - are expected back on Irish soil on Monday at the latest.

It had been hoped that the families could see the bodies early yesterday, and according to Father McAleenan they had been preparing for this.

But mortuaries in Alameda County do not provide facilities for families to view their loved ones; this can only happen when the undertaker steps in. It is not clear if this part of the process has been completed.

Meetings between the office of the coroner, the families and other relevant authorities were taking place in order to facilitate the repatriation.

Mayor of Berkeley Tom Bates said: "It is unimaginable to lose your son or daughter; and then to run in to some bureaucratic nightmare is just awful."

Aer Lingus has provisionally organised the flight to take home the deceased on Sunday, but some families are said to want to repatriate them sooner; this Saturday, if at all possible.

Friends and extended families have also made the journey to Berkeley in a show of solidarity; as have parents of students who were in the apartment at Kittredge Street on the night of the tragedy.

There was no change in the condition of any of the other students who have been injured, including Aoife Beary and Hannah Waters who are fighting critical injuries.

Marty Waters said sister Hannah, who is from Castleknock, was "staying strong and battling through". Sean Fahey, from Rathmines, who was also injured, posted on Facebook: "Thanks everyone for the support in such a dark time RIP".

Meanwhile, more than £100,000 has so far been raised to help the families of the victims.

Funds have been set up to help the families repatriate their loved ones, as well as the support groups who are aiding relatives and friends of the students.

The American Ireland Fund announced it will donated $100,000 (£63,000) "to support those who are providing care and assistance on the ground", in particular the San Fransisco Irish immigration Pastoral Centre.

It comes as an official account established by the Pastoral Centre has raised more than $65,000 (£41,000) in less than 24 hours.

Belfast Telegraph


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