Sunday 21 January 2018

Berkeley vigil for balcony victims as US donations soar

Families and friends attend a memorial vigil one month after the balcony collapse which killed six Irish students in Berkeley, California
Families and friends attend a memorial vigil one month after the balcony collapse which killed six Irish students in Berkeley, California
Consul Phillip Grant

Ralph Riegel and Brian O'Reilly

Three of the Irish students hurt in a US balcony collapse may require home adaptations as they recover from potentially life-altering injuries.

The revelation came as California politicians refused to pass emergency legislation to enforce tough new state-wide construction controls in the wake of the Berkeley tragedy on June 16, in which six students died.

Californian lawmakers rejected the tough new regulations, warning that they wanted to await the outcome of three separate investigations into the Library Gardens complex tragedy.

Six students - five Irish and one American - died when they were thrown on to a concrete pavement after the timber supports of a fourth-storey balcony failed.

A special candle-lit ceremony was staged in San Francisco to mark one month since the tragedy.

There was silence from those gathered, as the families and friends of the victims placed candles in Berkeley's main square.

A bouquet of 13 white roses was among the candles to commemorate the six dead and seven who were injured.

Irish Consul Philip Grant attended the service, saying that while it was a sad day, it was also a time to celebrate the progress made by the seven survivors.

Five Dublin students - Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke, all 21 - and Ashley Donohoe (22) from California, all died in the tragedy.

Seven others - Aoife Beary, Hannah Waters, Clodagh Cogley, Niall Murray, Jack Halpin, Conor Flynn and Seán Fahey - were injured in the accident, some seriously.

It has emerged that three of the students may require home adaptations when they return to Ireland in order to recover from multiple serious injuries.

Clodagh Cogley (21) admitted she fears that she may never walk again.

There are three separate investigations under way into the tragedy.

Twin-track civil and criminal investigations are being undertaken by Alameda County District-Attorney Nanci O'Malley and the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB), which regulates California's 300,000 building firms and operators.

CSLB was totally unaware that Segue Construction, which built the Berkeley complex at which the six students died, had paid out €23m ($26.5m) in lawsuit settlements linked to construction complaints.

The Berkeley families admitted they have been "absolutely overwhelmed" by messages of support and the sheer scale of fundraising in Ireland and the US.

A fundraiser will be staged at The Academy in Middle Abbey Street, Dublin, this Thursday. Tickets are €25.

Nicky Byrne will MC the night, with a myriad of Irish bands and DJs taking to the stage.

In the US, a special fund for the victims has raised €370,000 and donations have doubled over the past three weeks.

Irish Independent

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