Friday 30 September 2016

'They should be paid as much money as possible' - Mayor of Berkeley says families of balcony victims deserve compensation

Published 30/03/2016 | 19:34

The six students who lost their lives in the tragic accident, top left to bottom right: Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Ashley Donohoe, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke
The six students who lost their lives in the tragic accident, top left to bottom right: Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Ashley Donohoe, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke

The Mayor of Berkeley has said the families of those affected by the balcony tragedy should be paid “as much money as possible”.

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Speaking to RTE’s Drivetime Tom Bates also claimed authorities had inspected all balconies in the city in a bid to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.

The collapse, which occurred in the early hours of June 16 2015, claimed the lives of six Irish students and seriously injured seven more.

The five Irish students who died were all from south Dublin - medical students and friends Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh; Olivia Burke, who went to school with Eimear; Niccolai Schuster, who was at the same college as Lorcan and Eimear, and his friend from school Eoghan Culligan.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates

Irish-American Ashley Donohoe, who lived in California and was a cousin of Olivia's, also died.

The students were on J1 working visas for the summer in the California city and were among 40 people attending a birthday party when the balcony collapsed.

Yesterday it emerged that nobody will face criminal charges over the case. Describing it as a horrible tragedy  Mayor Bates said he feels “really, really sorry for the parents and friends of those students.”

The Mayor admitted that it will “take probably a year or two to sort out” the civil case.

"The parents, the friends of these children, these college students didn't deserve what happened.

"If they can’t prove the criminal [case], then they should be paid as much money as possible to offset some of that loss that has occurred.”

The scene of the Berkeley balcony tragedy which claimed the lives of six young Irish students: Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, and Eimear Walsh. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
The scene of the Berkeley balcony tragedy which claimed the lives of six young Irish students: Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, and Eimear Walsh. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

He said the District Attorney Nancy O’Malley had carried out a thorough investigation into the case but there is a “very high standard bar” for criminal proceedings.

Mayor Bates explained that the tragic events have caused the city to change its laws.

“In addition to that we have gone in and inspected all of our balconies in the entire city of Berkeley over the last few months.

“This was done in order to ensure that we don’t have any other timebombs out there with faulty balconies.

“We plan on coming back every three to five years and inspecting these balconies again so we can watch them over time.”

He said they have been advocating for state building codes to change to ensure they are covered by stricter standards.

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