Parents of students injured in Berkeley balcony tragedy hold vigil by bedsides
Published 17/06/2015 | 18:11
Parents of the students injured in the Berkeley balcony collapse are currently holding vigils at their bedsides this morning in California.
The injured students are Hannah Waters, Clodagh Cogley, Niall Murray, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin, Conor Flynn and Aoife Beary, all aged between 20 and 22.
Two of these students are understood to be in a critical condition.
Among those reported to be in a stable condition is Hannah Waters (pictured) from Castleknock.
Her parents are by her bedside, having flown out early yesterday afternoon, and it has been reported that she is awake and speaking.
Some of those injured in hospital are reported to be in a stable condition but are said to have 'life-altering injuries'.
All seven young people are in ICU in three different hospitals.
The fatal incident left six of their friends dead; Irish students Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcan Miller and Irish-American citizen Ashley Donohue, who lived in California.
The sixth fatality is Irish-American Ashley Donohoe (22), from California, who was with the group to celebrate the 21st birthday of Aoife Beary, who was on a summer work visa. Ashley's parents are understood to be originally from Ireland. She is understood to be a cousin of Olivia Burke.
Irish Consul general Philip Grant told Rte News tonight that he will meet with the coroner and the families this evening "to make sure that we can get the paperwork done as soon as possibly can."
Mr Grant extended his thanks to the emergency services and "incredble" support in Berkeley.
He said that the injured students were getting "the best medical care possible". "We're hopeful - everyone is fighting," he said.
UCD students Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan had studied together at St Mary's College in Rathmines, Dublin, and left for college life in the class of 2012.
Lorcan Miller was a former pupil at St Andrew's College in Booterstown, south Dublin, where his mother had taught Irish, and had gone on to study medicine in UCD, as had Eimear Walsh.
Headmaster Peter Fraser recalled him as an exceptional person.
Eoghan Culligan was also a highly regarded Gaelic football player and turned out for Ballyboden St Enda's in a county final in 2011.
Olivia Burke was remembered as a very well-liked student in a close-knit group at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT).
Olivia and Eimear Walsh, a medicine student at UCD, were former classmates at Loreto College in Foxrock, south Dublin.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said that his department are continuing to offer support to "the bereaved, the injured and the students affected" in the tragedy.
“Our Consulate in San Francisco is working with the local authorities and Irish community organisations to provide transport and accommodation to those who need it. I would like to thank the Irish community in San Francisco, local residents and the local authorities, all of whom have generously offered assistance and support to those affected by this devastating accident.
“We are also conscious that many Irish students were not physically injured, but were left deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of friends and classmates in this terrible accident. The Consulate has worked with local authorities in Berkeley to set up an incident centre in Berkeley, where grief counsellors will be on site and people will also have facilities to make phone calls home.
“I would encourage any families who have concerns about any loved ones in San Francisco and who may require these services to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Consular Response Team on +353 1 418 0200."
An incident centre has been set up in Berkeley City Hall as officials await the first reports from police, fire and engineering investigations to determine the cause of the accident.
While prayers were offered around Ireland, the Catholic Bishop of Oakland, California Michael Barber talked to Ireland's senior Catholic cleric Archbishop Eamon Martin and held a memorial mass.
US ambassador to Ireland Kevin O'Malley described the Berkeley balcony tragedy as a “terrible tragedy” that befell young people whose “hearts and minds were filled with ambitions to see my country.”
He confirmed that some 7,000 J1 visas were issued this year .
“It’s a very important programme for us, because it gives these students a chance to get to know us and for us to get to know them. As we try to move this wonderful relationship that Ireland and the United States has to the next generation.
“[The J1 programme] builds on a personal level what Governments, some times, can’t do. Individual student meets American students and American families, and they develop relationships that gone on for the rest of their lives.
“It’s really one of the cornerstone in making sure that the relations between Ireland and the United States stays at this wonderful level as we move to the next generation.
“It is a very significant part of how we have come to understand each other so well and that we have such a warm, deep relationship,” he said.
Mr O’Malley said the US embassy would made all of its resources available to the Irish Government, and that the embassy had contacted both the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan to this effect.