All six college students who died after a fourth-floor balcony collapsed at an apartment near the University of California at Berkeley have been identified. They were young Irish visitors celebrating a friend's 21st birthday.
Sky News has identified the six as: Ashley Donohoe, 22, Olivia Burke, 21, Eoghan Culligan, 21, Niccolai Schuster, 21, Lorcan Miller, 21, and Eimear Walsh.
Five of the victims were from Ireland, while Donohoe was believed to be living in Rohnert Park, California. The families of the Irish victims are expected in the university town of Berkeley, California, over the next few hours, Sky News said.
The news has been devastating for families in Ireland who imagined a summer of fun for their children. "This is a very difficult time for all of us, as you can imagine," Kevin Byrne, Ireland's vice consul in San Francisco, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The Irish community has been very, very supportive. We're getting nothing but help from everyone."
Diplomats had been on the telephone counseling relatives and friends and relaying information from police and doctors.
Seven others on the balcony were seriously injured in the tragedy, some with life-threatening injuries.
"It is heartbreaking to think of these bright young lives cut short," said Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson. "All our thoughts are with the bereft families, and with those seriously injured and their loved ones."
Five of the Irish students were in the country on a J-1 visa program for the summer to work and travel, said Byrne. Many of the 750 Irish students in the Bay Area visiting with the visas this summer are working in restaurants in San Francisco and at Fisherman's Wharf.
According to some media reports, all of the the balconies in the complex were red-tagged and deemed unsafe before the accident. The Library Gardens apartments, where the tragedy occurred, is in downtown Berkeley, surrounded by museums, restaurants, coffee shops and chain stores just blocks from the university.
Police received a call complaining of a loud party about an hour before the incident occurred but didn't investigate.
"When the balcony was falling down we thought it was an earthquake, and a really big earthquake," third-floor resident Silvia Biswas told the New York Times. "It was shaking my window. It was kind of like the building was falling down."
About 50 young people visiting from Ireland are living in the Library Gardens Apartments on Kittredge Avenue where the balcony collapsed.