Seven Irish students seriously injured in Berkeley balcony collapse named

Two of injured remain in critical condition,families of the students start to arrive in US

Simon Carswell reports from the scene of a balcony collapse in Berkeley, California where six Irish students were killed. Video: Reuters

 

Two of the seven Irish students injured in the Berkeley balcony collapse, which killed six of their friends, remain in a critical condition in Highland Hospital in nearby Oakland, according to the local Irish Consul General Philip Grant.

Three sets of parents - one related to one of the deceased and two to two of the injured - arrived into San Francisco Bay Area on Tuesday night.

The parents of the remaining 10 families of the six dead and seven injured in Tuesday’s tragedy are scheduled to arrive on the direct Aer Lingus flight from Dublin that lands in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon.

The Irish Consulate in San Francisco has set up a trauma centre in the City of Berkeley’s public safety building next to City Hall. The city has provided staff and trained counsellors to assist with consular staff.

Anxious parents

A liaison person will be appointed to help each family as they arrive. The department said it had received more than 500 calls from anxious parents and family members about their loved ones working and studying in the San Francisco Bay area. The helpline number is 00353 1 418 0200.

The seven injured in Tuesday morning’s accident are Clodagh Cogley, Aoife Beary, Niall Murray, Hannah Waters, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin and Conor Flynn. They are aged between 20 and 22 and are all from Dublin with exception of one student who is from Donegal.

Ms Waters and Ms Beary remain in a critical condition. Their parents and other family members arrived from Ireland last night and are at the hospital. Their condition is being closed monitored by medical staff.

The remaining five remain in a stable condition at two other hospitals. Two of the five stable students were in surgery for most of Tuesday and are said to have serious, life-changing injuries.

Clodagh Cogley (21) is the daughter of Niall Cogley, director of broadcast at TV3, and granddaughter of the well-known sports commentator Fred Cogley.

She is studying psychology at Trinity College Dublin.

Ms Cogley’s family members have arrived in California to be at her hospital bedside after she underwent surgery for spinal injuries on Tuesday.

The parents of Olivia Burke, one of the six killed when the balcony collapsed at the 2020 Kittredge Street student accommodation building, have also arrived into the San Francisco Bay Area from Ireland.

Ms Burke whose Irish-American cousin Ashley Donohoe was also killed on Tuesday, has family connections in the area.

Ms Burke’s mother and Ms Donohoe’s father are sister and brother. Ms Donohoe’s family live in the Sonoma, about 60kms north of San Francisco.

Ms Burke’s father also has a brother living in the area.

The other four deceased are Eoghan Culligan (21), Niccolai (Nick) Schuster (21), Lorcan Miller (21) and Eimear Walsh (21).

Autopsies

The bodies of the deceased are being held at the Alameda County’s mortuary in Oakland. The authorities are hoping to repatriate the bodies of the five Irish-resident victims as quickly as possible, ideally by the weekend. All of the necessary autopsies are due to be carried out on Wednesday and arrangements are being for the repatriation of the bodies.

Mr Grant said that the American agencies which run the J-1 programme for the US State Department, CIEE, which is based in Portland, Maine, and InterExchange, which is based in New Jersey, are covering the cost of medical expenses and emergency-related costs associated with the accident through the programme’s insurance policy.

CIEE and InterExchange, the US agencies that sponsor the J-1 programme, works with Irish student travel companies, USIT and SAYIT for the visa scheme that 7,000 Irish students signed up for this summer, including an estimated 2,500 who travelled to California.

Minute’s silence

There was a minute’s silence in the Dail on Wednesday for those killed and injured and Taoiseach Enda Kenny read the names of the dead into the Dail record as a memorial.

The House was then suspended for two hours.

Mr Kenny said the tragedy had resonated with every family and with parents across Ireland.

“When you look at the papers this morning don’t you see the faces of your own children, sons and daughters, at the start of a great adventure in life.”

He added: “The flag of our country flies at half mast as a mark of respect and sympathy to the bereaved.”

Aer Lingus had helped in assisting the families of the dead and injured to travel to San Francisco at short notice, Mr Grant said.

Mr Grant said that an estimated 40 people, including the six dead and seven injured, attended the 21st birthday party at the Unit 405 apartment on the fourth-floor of the student accommodation building.

The apartment was rented in the names of Ms Walsh and Ms Burke, both deceased, and Ms Beary, who is in a critical condition. The students were celebrating Aoife’s 21st birthday when the accident happened.

Consular staff are trying to find out if the uninjured students who attended the party wish to travel back to Ireland, and when they wish to travel if they do, or if they intend to remain on in the US.

The investigation into the accident is being led by the building safety department at the City of Berkeley.

Structural aspects

Mr Grant said the investigation was not a criminal inquiry. The focus is on the structural aspects of the support for the balcony, the remains of which were removed by building contractors on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, a crane was in position on Kittredge Street and was preparing to remove a third-floor balcony underneath because of police concerns that it might pose a danger to the public on the street below.

The small balconies at the Library Gardens apartment complex were designed more as decoration than a sturdy platform to entertain large groups of friends, a member of the Berkeley Design Review Committee that approved the project in 2001 told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“It was definitely not large enough to be what the city would call an ‘open space balcony,’ where groups of people could stand outside,” said Carrie Olson, whose 14-year stint on the review committeeend last year. “This was meant just to be a place where someone could stand out for bit, get a breath of fresh air. Not for something like 13 people.”

Flowers, cards and tributes continued to be left this morning at the memorial at a corner of the student building in Berkeley, a city popular with Irish J-1 students because it has lower rents than San Francisco.

Students are planning to hold a vigil in Berkeley on Wednesday night in honour of the six dead and injured.

In a statement, USIT said it was working to provide practical support services for families, friends and anyone affected by the tragedy in Berkeley.

An Irish USIT helpline 00353 1 602 1630 will operate until 10pm daily. This number is manned by a team of USIT staff to help with queries relating to flights, insurance information or any questions that might arise relating to our students and their families.

Those with insurance questions can contact another USIT helpline: 00353 91 501 613.