A group of five Irish students and one American were killed and seven were injured in a balcony collapse near the University of California, Berkeley, early Tuesday morning.
“My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the deceased and those who have been injured in this appalling accident,” Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan said in a statement. “My Department in Dublin stands ready to provide all possible consular assistance to the Irish citizens affected by this tragedy.”
The identities of the dead were confirmed by JD Nelson, a Sergeant with the Alameda County Sheriff’s office in a press conference Tuesday. They are Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohenert Park, California, Oliva Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimera Walsh, all 21 and from Ireland.
The accident happened at a birthday celebration at the relatively new apartment building, according to KRON 4. Many of the attendees were Irish students living in Berkeley on a summer exchange program.
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western U.S., called the program a “formative experience” for thousands of young Irish who come to the U.S. every summer. He added that the Irish community was still “frozen in shock.”
“We have around 700 Irish students in the Bay Area at the moment, and there are very few of them who didn’t know someone at that party,” Grant said.
The fourth-floor balcony crashed to the sidewalk from the top of the four-story building around midnight local time, Berkeley Police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats told NBC News. She also said that the fire department and city officials have secured the area surrounding the collapse.
Police received a call about the collapse around 1 a.m. local time, the Associated Press reported, and when authorities arrived they found the balcony in pieces on Kittredge Street.
Many of the injured have life-threatening injuries and are being treated at hospitals in the area, according to the AP. Authorities do not know what caused the collapse.
“We don’t have a lot of specific detail at this point because [investigators] are still trying to work through it all,” Coats told the AP.