Families in balcony tragedy vigil

Published: Saturday 20th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Relatives and dozens of fellow Irish students have gathered at a church for a vigil remembering four of the six young people killed in the California balcony collapse.

Hearses carried the four metal coffins into St Columba Catholic Church in Oakland and a bout 15 of the victims’ immediate family members huddled together in the rectory for about an hour before entering the church for the viewing that was limited to relatives, friends and fellow students.

A bus and a van bearing about 50 other Irish students living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the summer, as were the four victims, included students who had been at the party in Berkeley, where the balcony collapsed during a 21st birthday party early on Tuesday.

The sanctuary of the predominantly African-American church was decorated with cloths in the colours of the Irish flag and had screens with projected images of all six students who died in each corner of the room.

As the evening wore on, several city officials from Berkeley, where the accident took place, visited to pay their respects. They included the city’s mayor, police chief and fire chief, along with emergency responders who helped the victims on the night of the accident came to pay their respects to the students’ parents and families.

Jimmy Deenihan, Ireland’s minister for the diaspora, said the tragedy had garnered great attention in Ireland and he was touched by how much support for the victims and their families he has found in the US.

“You can’t really appreciate the trauma they are going through, only they can,” he said.

The balcony collapsed from the fifth floor of an apartment building, hurling 13 people to the street 50 feet below. Six died and seven survivors are being treated in hospitals.

Those being remembered at the vigil were Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh, all 21, from Ireland.

The other two students killed, 22-year-old Ashley Donohe of Rohnert Park, California, and Olivia Burke, 21, of Ireland, will have a separate funeral in the Bay Area today.

Published: Saturday 20th June 2015 by The News Editor

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