Belfast Telegraph

Picture of the Week: Vigil in memory of Irish students

A candlelight vigil was held this week for the young people who were killed, or seriously injured, in a balcony collapse in Berkeley, California.

Crowds of young people gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr Civic Center Park to mourn the loss of six students who died in the tragic early-morning incident.

The youngsters - many of whom were Irish and in America for the first time - gathered at the apartment for a birthday party. But the celebrations turned to horror when the balcony crashed to the ground. Reports indicate the collapse may have been caused by rotted wooden beams.

Berkeley's mayor Tom Bates said investigators believe the wood was not caulked and sealed properly at the time of construction and was damaged by moisture as a result.

The crowded fifth-floor balcony broke off an apartment building during a 21st-birthday party held by visiting Irish students, spilling 13 people 50ft onto the pavement below. Seven were seriously hurt.

"More than likely, it was caused by rain and water damage that was caused to the support beams," Mr Bates said.

He said it was "obviously a bad idea" for 13 people to crowd onto such a small balcony, but was not blaming the victims.

Cassandra Bujarski, a spokeswoman for the apartments' property management firm, Greystar, had no comment.

Building inspectors determined another balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex was "structurally unsafe" and ordered it to be demolished.

Two balconies were red-tagged, or declared off-limits, at the apartments, which were completed in 2007 and are popular among visiting students and those at the nearby University of California, Berkeley. Flags were flown at half-mast around Ireland and the Dail suspended normal business as the country mourned the dead: Ashley Donohoe (22) of Rohnert Park, California, and Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh, all 21-year-olds from the Republic.

"They were in the prime of their lives," said Bernadette Prendiville, principal of the high school where Ms Burke and Ms Walsh had been pupils.


Belfast Telegraph


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