Thursday 20 October 2016

Last of Berkeley tragedy victims is home

Published 23/06/2015 | 02:30

Olivia Burke
Olivia Burke
Mourners cry as the caskets of cousins Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, are placed in hearses following services at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, California on Saturday (AP Photo/Michael Short)
The bodies of four of the Irish students who died after a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, California arrive back at Dublin Airport, Ireland, Sunday, June 21. Six students were killed when the fourth-floor balcony they were standing on collapsed during a party at the student accommodation block in Berkeley California on Tuesday (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

The last one home was Olivia Burke, a dozen family members accompanying her remains on the long, long journey across the United States and the Atlantic Ocean.

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A sombre group of over 30 friends who had been at the fateful party that night also came home on the same Aer Lingus flight, their summer of California dreaming irretrievably shattered.

The mourners were met at Dublin Airport by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Under garda escort, the hearse bearing the unfamiliar-looking silver American casket with Olivia's remains was taken to Fanagans Funeral Home on Aungier Street in Dublin, where mourners gathered for the sad process of saying goodbye.

After a double funeral with her beloved cousin, Ashley Donohoe, in California on Saturday, another funeral Mass for Olivia will be held tomorrow at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock at 11am, followed by burial at Deansgrange cemetery.

The 21-year-old student's remains were driven over the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco Airport at 11.45am local time on Sunday.

Two police vehicles escorted her body on the journey from the mortuary near Sonoma where her funeral was held on Saturday morning.

While San Francisco police motorcyclists cleared traffic on the motorway to ensure that the family's journey back to Ireland was not delayed. Olivia's heartbroken father Paul, mother Paula and brother Gavin were driven by bus to the airport.

Olivia was remembered as a very well-liked student at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT).

She had recently completed a five-month placement at East Coast Radio, with colleagues praising her as a "bright, bubbly young kid".

"For a girl of just 21 she showed massive potential for a bright and fruitful career in media," they said

The Foxrock woman was due back in college in September to start her final year of a degree in entrepreneurship and management.

Meanwhile grieving young students, relatives, friends and neighbours gathered at Fanagans funeral home in Dundrum yesterday to say farewell to Eimear Walsh, who also died in the Berkeley balcony collapse last week.


The road outside the funeral home had been blocked off to ensure that the family's final hours with their beloved daughter would be in peace.

Olivia's funeral takes place today at 11am at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock.

The funeral of Eoghan Culligan also takes place at the same time at the Church of the Annunciation in Rathfarnham.

Meanwhile a local film-maker in Berkeley took to social media to say how he had never seen the city impacted by a tragedy of this magnitude.

He revealed how he had heard a passing child complain to his mother that the sidewalk on Kitteridge street was blocked.

Gently the mother had told her young son: "Listen, you need to have respect. This is a sacred space, okay? Sacred."

The film-maker said Berkeley's new bond with Ireland is "profound. Eternal."

"I'll never comprehend this loss, what the families and friends are going through or how this could happen in my town," he said.

Irish Independent

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