Thursday 8 December 2016

Berkeley tragedy: Joint funeral for cousins Olivia and Ashley

*Vigils for the dead and injured have been taking place overnight
*Two students continue to fight for their lives
*Students' parents arrive at hospitals in wake of accident
*US official says balcony was only meant to be 'decorative'

Denise Calnan, Liam Kelly and Ralph Riegel

Published 18/06/2015 | 02:30

Two men participate in a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Two men participate in a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Father Aidan McAleenan, an Irishman who has a Parish in Oakland, speaks during a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
The sun sets outside the Cathedral of Christ the Light, prior to a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse, in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. Three men and three women in their early 20s, including an American friend of the Irish students, died in the collapse, and seven others were hospitalized. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Claire Raftery, a former Dubliner now living in San Francisco, plays the bagpipes prior to a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A man looks up while others pray during a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Claire Raftery, a former Dubliner now living in San Francisco, stands during a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, attends a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Claire Raftery, a former Dubliner now living in San Francisco, plays bagpipes before a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Mourners lay candles during a vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Mourners hold candles during a vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
A mourner cries after placing a candle at a vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. The six Irish students died when a balcony collapsed during a party. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Mourners stand by during a candlelight vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Candles illuminate a picture of Niccolai Schuster during a candlelight vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
A flag of Ireland, flowers and a sign are shown at a shrine left for victims of the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A man who did not give his name looks at photographs, cards and flowers from a shrine for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flowers and cards are left for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A family that suffered two deaths in the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse will hold a joint funeral for cousins Olivia Burke and Ashley Donohue.

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Dublin student Olivia (21) and her cousin and friend Irish-American citizen Ashley (22) were both killed as a result of the balcony collapse in the early hours of Tuesday morning which left six young people dead and seven more injured.

Berkeley Tragedy Victims' Fund

The Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre in San Francisco has set up an online account to raise funds for the students affected by this tragedy and to assist the immediate needs of their families.

Click here to make a donation to the fund

Their families will travel to Ashley's native Rohnert Park, California for a funeral for the two cousins, before Olivia is brought home to Ireland.

Fr Aidan McAleenan who lives in the San Francisco area, but is originally from Co Down, said the grieving families who arrived in Berkeley are 'just putting one foot in front of the other'.

"Everybody has just wrapped their arms around the families," Fr McAleenan told Newstalk Breakfast.

"When they got here, they were just exhausted. They're just walking here, just putting one foot in front of the other.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley
Workmen examine the damage at the scene of the balcony collapse in Berkeley, California
Injured student Jack Halpin
Police hold up sheets as medical staff take away the bodies of the dead students at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley.
Stunned onlookers at the scene of the tragedy
Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California
Two grief-stricken Irish students, who say they knew the victims, look on as sheriff’s deputies move the body of a friend who died in the Berkeley balcony collapse.
Click to see a bigger version of the graphic
Olivia Burke
Lorcán Miller
Lorcan Miller took key positions in the school's Model United Nations St Andrew's College/PA Wire (undated photo)
Eimear Walsh
Eoghan Culligan
Ashley Donohoe
Niccolai Schuster
The remains of the damaged balcony are removed from the 4th-story apartment building in Berkeley. Photo: Reuters

"But the over-riding question was when do they get to see their children, they want to go home at the weekend, so they have to work out those details.

Read more: 'I just can’t put it into words'- J1 students in Berkeley in deep shock

"The families will get to see their children in the morning and then they'll take them home Sunday or Monday, Monday at the latest.

"The two cousins Olivia and Ashley will have a joint funeral in Rohnert Park, it's about an hour and a half north of San Francisco.

Our flag is flying at half-mast this morning in remembrance to those who lost their lives in Berkeley.

Posted by U.S. Embassy Dublin on Wednesday, 17 June 2015

"They will have a joint funeral there and then the young woman will be buried, and then they'll bring the Irish woman home to Dublin and she will be buried in Dublin."

Two of the victims of the J1 student tragedy in California continue to fight for their lives in hospital.

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina who signed a book of condolence at the Mansion House following the deaths of the young Irish students in the Berkeley tragedy.
Pic:Mark Condren
President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina who signed a book of condolence at the Mansion House following the deaths of the young Irish students in the Berkeley tragedy. Pic:Mark Condren

Members of the local Irish-American community are providing support and transport to the families as they seek to come to terms with the trauma of the accident, which claimed the lives of six students and left another seven seriously injured.

Irish Consul to San Francisco Philip Grant is helping the families as they met with the Alameda County Coroner to prepare for the heart-breaking journey home with the bodies of their children in the coming days.

Two men participate in a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Two men participate in a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Father Aidan McAleenan, an Irishman who has a Parish in Oakland, speaks during a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
The sun sets outside the Cathedral of Christ the Light, prior to a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse, in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. Three men and three women in their early 20s, including an American friend of the Irish students, died in the collapse, and seven others were hospitalized. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Claire Raftery, a former Dubliner now living in San Francisco, plays the bagpipes prior to a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A man looks up while others pray during a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Claire Raftery, a former Dubliner now living in San Francisco, stands during a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, attends a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Claire Raftery, a former Dubliner now living in San Francisco, plays bagpipes before a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Mourners lay candles during a vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Mourners hold candles during a vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
A mourner cries after placing a candle at a vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. The six Irish students died when a balcony collapsed during a party. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Mourners stand by during a candlelight vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Candles illuminate a picture of Niccolai Schuster during a candlelight vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
A flag of Ireland, flowers and a sign are shown at a shrine left for victims of the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A man who did not give his name looks at photographs, cards and flowers from a shrine for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flowers and cards are left for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A memorial service has been held overnight at Oakland Cathedral in California for the six who died: Ashley and Olivia, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcan Miller.

Read more: Taken away at the start of this great adventure of life

Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Flowers and cards are left for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flowers are laid at a memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Flowers and cards mark a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Flowers and a framed photograph mark a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States (R) speaks to the media with Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States (L) helps Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, lay an Irish flag atop two wreaths at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, pauses for a moment after laying an Irish flag atop two wreaths at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Visitors react as they visit a memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (C) stands next to Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States (L) and Berkeley Police officers before a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) participates in a wreath-laying ceremony with Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, lays an Irish flag atop two wreaths at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A man makes the sign of the cross over his heart after laying a bouquet of flowers near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Mary Elzy says a prayer for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, listens as Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, speaks to reporters in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, after placing wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Toni Mikulka places flowers at a makeshift memorial for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A flag of Ireland is draped over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flowers and a map of Ireland are left at a makeshift memorial for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, after placing wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, and Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, walk in front of a building where a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Neil Sands of the Irish Network Bay Area places a flag of Ireland over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, left, and Neil Sands of the Irish Network Bay Area place a flag of Ireland over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Father McAleenan told more than 300 who attended: "Today the whole of Ireland embraces these families."

Seven students are still being treated in hospitals. Aoife Beary from Blackrock, Dublin, and Hannah Waters from Castleknock, Dublin, are both in a critical condition. Their parents have been by their bedsides at Oakland Hospital since arriving on Tuesday.

A candle lit vigil organised by J1 students, who had been living in the apartment block, has also been taking place this morning.

One block from where the tragedy struck at a 21st birthday party in Berkeley, California, a park bench became the focal point for prayers and an outpouring of grief.

Candles, flowers and pictures of the six dead formed a memorial in Martin Luther King Jr Civic Centre Park, the main park in the college city, surrounded in a large circle by those who organised the prayers, some of those who were at the party and a small number of family members who had flown in from Ireland.

A deep feeling of solidarity with those affected by the tragedy was demonstrated by the attendance of hundreds of other students who had no connection to the dead and injured other than to be in the San Francisco Bay area for the summer.

Meanwhile, it has emerged the balcony which collapsed causing the deaths and injuries was only originally included in the San Francisco building design as a decorative feature.

The Irish Independent has learned the balconies became the focus of a planning wrangle a decade ago between the City of Berkeley Design Review Committee and the developers, Segue Ltd.

A February 21, 2002, briefing memo about the building revealed City of Berkeley planners insisted they "need sample of balcony material" and that they would "prefer a lighter touch for two balconies on the Kittredge side".

Read more: Irish Consul assisting as heartbroken parents arrive in San Francisco

It was a fourth-storey balcony in the building that failed, sending six students to their deaths and leaving seven others badly injured at 12.41am last Monday.

The City of Berkeley investigation is now focused on the water-proofing of eight critical wooden structural supports for the balcony.

Mayor of Berkeley Tom Bates yesterday told reporters he believed the wood had not been sealed properly and this may have led to moisture damage.

He said that appeared to be the primary cause of the tragedy.

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

Backtrack

Read more: We might just be repeating ourselves, but talking does help

However shortly afterwards, Mr Bates appeared to backtrack and issued a statement in which he stressed he was not qualified to make such a judgment.

"It was speculation on my part about possible water damage to the wood supports for the balcony.

"That is not an official conclusion. I am not a structural engineer and am not qualified to make a judgment," he added.

Both San Francisco civil engineers and Library Gardens complex residents yesterday said dry rot was feared to have degraded the timber supports.

Berkeley officials are also examining resident complaints of flooding in February 2013.

The balconies were initially intended to be decorative when the plans for the complex were submitted for approval a decade ago.

Read more: All involved will receive every support possible

Former Berkeley Design Review Committee official Carrie Olson, who abstained from the approval vote, said the balconies were for decorative rather than practical purposes.

"(They were) definitely not large enough to be what the city would call an 'open-space balcony', where groups of people could stand outside," she said.

Under a 57-page California planning regulation dating from 1998 and applied to the complex, it emerged the balconies were simply required to have a structural capacity to handle 28kg (60lbs) per square foot.

Accelerating

City official Matthai Chakko said the investigation into the tragedy was accelerating.

The City of Berkeley later confirmed a second balcony at the Library Gardens complex had now been found to be structurally unsafe and was a "collapse hazard".

BlackRock Ltd, which serves as the investment adviser for a real estate fund which owns Library Gardens, said that it was "terribly saddened by the tragic incident" and that it was in contact with the building's management company and an independent structural engineer.

You can donate to the official victims' families fund set up by the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre in San Francisco here

The account has been established to raise funds for the students affected by the tragedy - tax-deductable donations will be used to support and assist the immediate needs of the families and students in Berkeley

Irish Independent

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