Ireland is "frozen in shock and disbelief" as the country mourns the loss of five young students

By Wade Rouse
June 17, 2015 05:10 PM
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The balcony that collapsed early Tuesday morning – killing six people and injuring seven others – was designed more as decoration than as a platform that could hold a group of people, according to a former member of the Berkeley Design Review Committee.

“It was definitely not large enough to be what the city would call an ‘open space balcony,’ where groups of people could stand outside,” Carrie Olson told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This was meant just to be a place where someone could stand out for bit, get a breath of fresh air. Not for something like 13 people.”

Sarah McCarthy says she “lost the love of my life” when her boyfriend, Eoghan Culligan, was among six people killed during a 21st-birthday party.

“No words can begin to describe the loss I feel,” McCarthy wrote in a Facebook post, according to the Belfast Telegraph. “I’ve lost the love of my life and my best friend. My heart goes out to everyone who lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy. See you on the other side my boy, Love you forever.”

Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western U.S., told press that the country was “frozen in shock and disbelief” and “overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that we have received from all the communities here.”

In addition to Culligan, those who were killed include 21-year-old Irish students and friends Nick Schuster, Lorcén Miller, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke, as well as 22-year-old Irish-American Ashley Donohoe from California.

Numerous others were injured in the 40-ft. fall, which Berkeley police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats described as “very serious and potentially life-threatening.”

The remaining wood from the collapsed balcony
Jeff Chiu/AP

The tragedy occurred at a house party to celebrate the 21st birthday of Aoife Beary, who was on a summer work visa.

Between 30 and 50 people were at the house party, where police were called about a noise disturbance roughly 40 minutes before the balcony collapsed.

Police decided not to respond, according to reports, because they also received reports of a shooting in a separate area of the city at the same time.

It is now being reported that not all of those killed were actually on the fourth-story balcony of the apartment complex when it collapsed.

Police are investigating the likelihood that some of the students fell while trying to save those on the balcony as it gave way, the Herald reports.

A crew begins work on the apartment building balcony
Jeff Chiu/AP

“From what I understand there was a 21st, and there was a bunch of them on a balcony, either getting some air, or dancing, or whatever you do at a 21st,” Niall Cogley told the Belfast Telegraph, adding that it was a “miracle” his daughter Clodagh was alive following the balcony collapse. “Then it just fell from the sky, and they all ended up on the street, some fatally injured.”

Berkeley officials said investigators are working to figure out why the balcony collapsed.

According to the Los Angeles Times, water seeping into the beams that support the balcony could have contributed to the collapse.

It appears to be a classic case of dry rot, meaning water intruded into the building [and] rotted the wood that supported the balcony, Gene St. Onge, a civil and structural engineer in Oakland, told the news outlet. With more than a dozen people on the balcony, “it gave way. It didn t have enough residual strength, and it failed.”

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