Friday 21 October 2016

Berkeley tragedy: Taken away at the start of this great adventure of life

J1 student tragedy: The victims

Published 18/06/2015 | 02:30

Olivia Burke - Age: 21 From: Foxrock, Co Dublin School: Loreto, Foxrock Studying: Business in IADT
Olivia Burke - Age: 21 From: Foxrock, Co Dublin School: Loreto, Foxrock Studying: Business in IADT
Niccolai Schuster - Age: 21 From: Terenure, Dublin 6 School: St Mary’s College, Rathmines Studying: Arts in UCD
Lorcán Miller - Age: 21 From: Shankill, Co Dublin School: St Andrew’s College, Booterstown, Co Dublin Studying: Medicine in UCD
Eoghan Culligan - Age: 21 From: Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 School: St Mary’s College, Rathmines Studying: Logistics, DIT
Ashley Donohoe - Age: 22 From: Santa Rosa, California School: Rancho Cotate High School Studying: Biology in Sonoma State Univ.
Eimear Walsh - Age: 21 From: Foxrock, Co Dublin School: Loreto, Foxrock Studying: Medicine in UCD

The victims of the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse:

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Olivia Burke

Olivia Burke was just months away from embarking on the final year of her business degree course.

The 21-year-old was studying in the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) in Dun Laoghaire and was a cousin of Ashley Donohoe, the Irish-American from Santa Rosa, California, who also died in the tragedy.

Olivia had recently completed a five-month work placement at East Coast FM where she was instrumental in helping to raise €60,000 for cancer charities.

Mark Robinson, the programme director at the station, said Olivia was a "great girl" who was instantly loved by the team when she began working there in January. "She became a part of the family," he said. "We have a reasonably small staff here...and people work shoulder to shoulder."

He said Olivia was a driving force behind the station's success in raising over €60,000 for cancer services in Co Wicklow during their countywide coffee morning earlier this year.

A single red rose lay on her desk there yesterday.


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"She did very, very well and everybody was very impressed with her work ethic and the work that she did," Mr Robinson said.

Olivia had been excitedly telling her colleagues about how much she was looking forward to the American trip in the weeks before she left.

"She was a lovely young woman and a good person, it's a shame that she has been taken at this point of her life, it's a tragedy," he added.

IADT's president Dr Annie Doona yesterday led the tributes to the "lovely girl" who was "doing very well on her programme".

"She was in the Entrepreneurship and Management class. She had just completed third year and was due to complete her final year in September," said Dr Doona.

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"She was a very hard working, very creative and a lovely girl. It is very sad, it was a huge shock yesterday and we are all very deeply saddened and upset."

There were just 38 students in Olivia's class and she was one of just seven girls among the "close little group".

Niccolai Schuster

‘A great friend, taken too soon’

Niccolai Schuster, known as Nick among friends, is a grandnephew of legendary playwright John B Keane and one of two St Mary's College students to lose their lives in the tragedy.

From Terenure in south Dublin, he finished in second-level education in 2012. After that he progressed to UCD where he was doing an Arts degree, taking classes in history and politics.

He was described yesterday as 'sports mad' and played rugby with St Mary's, as well as following Leinster rugby and the fortunes of German football giants Bayern Munich.

His Facebook page was littered with photos of him meeting the club's stars, including World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger and he regularly travelled over for the team's biggest games.

Indeed the club's ardent supporter base paid a special tribute to their fan in Ireland yesterday.


Read more: 'It hit us like a tsunami' - Foxrock parish hold memorial for Irish students killed in Berkeley tragedy

His profile has also become a shrine to scores of tributes from friends and well-wishers here and abroad who expressed their shock and devastation at the tragic passing.

"You were always up for the craic. A true free spirit if ever there was one," said one friend.

"You had your Dad's humour and your Mum's kind heart. Wherever you are I hope you're causing as much trouble as you always did. I will miss you so much."

Another said: "God has taken an amazing person way too early but you know what they say the most amazing people are the ones he wants. It's an absolute heartbreak that everything happened as it did but I hope you sleep and rest well up in heaven and look down on all your family and friends."

He was also a frequent visitor to his famous Kerry ancestors where the Keane family run a machinery business.

St Mary's College and the rugby club paid tribute to Niccolai and sent their condolences to his family, as did UCD President Andrew Deeks.

"We cannot comprehend the desperate shock and grief they are feeling and we are heartbroken at their suffering and loss," he wrote.

Lorcan Miller

‘He was truly a gentleman’

'He was a truly exceptional student. One of our brightest, one our best, a straight A student."

The tribute from St Andrew's College painted the picture of a highly-talented young man, possessing a keen sense of social justice, and destined for a big future.

Lorcán Miller attended the south Dublin school from 2006 to 2012. As outlined in a tribute on the college's website, he would go on to become deputy Head Boy and, through his hard work and dedication, was awarded an Entrance Scholarship to UCD where he was studying medicine for the past three years.

The school's deputy principal Monica Lynott said he will be remembered for more than his exceptional classroom abilities.

"He really became involved in everything and his sense of social awareness, his sense of social conscious was very keen. He played sports, he played hockey, he was involved in model United Nations, choirs, school musicals - the list is endless really," she said.

Lorcán maintained his connection with the college and very recently had given HPAT advice to aspiring medical students in St Andrew's. Monica said the school remained in his debt.

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Read more: Special service to be attended by TDs in memory of Berkeley victims

"He gave so much more for the school than he could have ever walked away with. He was known not just within the class of 2012 and the alumni, but current students would remember him as well, so the whole of the St Andrew's College community is feeling this loss." He also played hockey, winning awards with the school, and played tennis with his local Shankill club as well as in UCD.

"He was well-liked and genuinely exceptional. The word gentleman is probably used more for older people but that is the word for him. He was a gentleman - both on and off the court," said Shankill club vice-chair Liam O'Donohoe.

He had done extensive charity work and raised funds for National Maternity Hospital Foundation one on occasion. He is survived by his loving parents Sinead and Ken and younger brother Jamie and sisters Lucy and Poppy.

Eoghan Culligan

‘Very affable, with a big, big heart’

Members of Ballyboden St Enda's GAA club "were holding out hope" when the news broke of the tragic accident.

Having played from underage level right up the adult ranks, Eoghan Culligan was known throughout the club and very highly regarded.

"We were all holding out hope that it wouldn't be him when the news of the accident broke. But with way people are online and everyone is tweeting it was just heart-breaking for everyone when the news came true that it was him," said Ger Flaherty who is the club's adult football chairman. "He was a very obliging young fella."

From Rathfarnhman, Eoghan attended St Mary's College along with his friend Niccolai Schuster who also lost his life in the tragedy. He completed his Leaving Cert in 2012 and secured a place in DIT where he was due to begin his final year in September, after his summer in the States.

"He was studying logistics and supply chain management and I would have worked closely with him in his first year and in his third year," explained lecturer Audrey Jennings who paid tribute to "a dedicated and hard-working student" serious about his studies. "I found him a great guy who took suggestions on board. He excelled in group work because he was friendly and was definitely one of the good guys."

Eoghan had recently completed a work placement with Ace Express "where he did great work" and dedicated his spare time to his beloved Ballyboden, his family, and voluntary work in a local nursing home.


Read more: Berkeley tragedy: Grieving friends and neighbours hold overnight vigil in Foxrock church

St Mary's College and the rugby football club separately paid tributes to Eoghan and passed on their condolences to his parents Gerry and Marie and brothers Andy and Stephen.

In a heart-breaking online tribute, Eoghan's girlfriend Sarah posted: "No words can begin to describe the loss I feel, I've lost the love of my life and my best friend.

"My heart goes out to everyone who lost their loved ones in this terrible tragedy. See you on the other side my boy, Love you forever".

Ashley Donohue

‘A vibrant young woman’

Ashley Donohoe was raised in California by her Irish parents, who described their deceased daughter as a "fine, vibrant young woman".

Her heartbroken father George told a Californian TV station that the day his daughter died was the "worst day of my life".

He said he feels deeply for the other families who have also lost their beloved children in this horrific accident.

The 22-year-old was a cousin of fellow victim, Olivia Burke, and was in her third year of studying biology at Sonoma State University, close to where she is from.

Susan Kashack, the chief communications officer with the university, last night expressed her shock at the horrific incident.

"We were all very shocked, we all heard about the incident but we didn't realise that Ashley was one of the pupils who passed away until late Tuesday afternoon," Ms Kashack said.

"She was a biology major. She would have returned in the fall. This would have been her fourth year.

"She was a really terrific student."


Read more: Gutter journalism an insult to victims of Berkeley tragedy

It is understood that Ashley's cousin Olivia was living in the apartment where they were celebrating the 21st birthday party of Aoife Beary.

Ashley was very popular in school and was an "honour roll student".

A spokesperson for her high school described her as "a great student, not to mention a phenomenal soccer player".

"I knew that she had a bright future ahead of her, which just compounds the tragedy that just occurred," said the spokesperson.

She is believed to have returned to her alma mater, where she was homecoming queen when a student, just weeks ago as her sister was graduating from the school.

Eimear Walsh

‘A lovely person, full of life and energy’

Eimear Walsh is being remembered by those who knew her as a "lovely person" who had a "sparkle and lots of friends".

The 21-year-old was celebrating her good friend Aoife Beary's birthday when the tragedy struck.

The young woman is the beloved only daughter of the Walsh family who lived in Foxrock, south Dublin. It is understood that her mother Patricia - who she shared an extremely close bond with - hails from Westport, Co Mayo.

Eimear, who was in her third year in UCD where she was studying medicine, adored her only older brother Rob and the whole family were very close, according to Foxrock parish priest Fr Frank Herron.

"I know Eimear, she was a lovely girl," Fr Herron said yesterday. "She was very outgoing, very full of life, had a sparkle and loads of friends.

"She was very intelligent and she was a third year medical student. She was a lovely, lovely person and had everything to look forward to and would have had so much to offer.

"I was in touch with the Walsh family before they headed off. I spoke to them yesterday and they are absolutely devastated," he added.

Eimear Walsh.jpg  

Fr Herron explained that the family are very active in the parish church and her mother was one of the founding members of the family mass group, which sang in the church every Sunday morning at 10am mass.

Read more: Q&A: The Library Gardens apartments

Eimear regularly participated over the years, particularly when she was younger.

Fr Ciaran Holohan served as the parish priest in Foxrock before he retired.

"I did know Eimear and I know her family very well," Fr Holohan said last night.

"I know her family very well, they are good people. Her family are very involved in the church here.

"I knew her as a member of the community. She was very involved in the parish community.

"She was a lovely person, her family are very good and they are lovely people. We are actually shocked at the moment and we are still trying to come to terms with it, it is just so awful."

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

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