Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Official: California Balcony Collapse Kills 5 Irish Students

A fourth floor balcony rests on the balcony below after collapsing at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., early Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Berkeley police say several people are dead and others injured after the balcony fell shortly before 1 a.m., near the University of California, Berkeley. (AP)


BERKELEY, CALIF. (AP) — A fourth-floor balcony of a San Francisco Bay Area apartment building collapsed early Tuesday, killing five Irish students and leaving eight other people injured, officials said.
Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan told reporters in Dublin that all five of the dead were in the U.S. on temporary visas. A 21st birthday party was underway in the building in the university town of Berkeley at the time of the accident, he said.
Many of the wounded have critical, life-threatening injuries, said Officer Jennifer Coats, a Berkeley police spokeswoman. Police received a call about the incident shortly before 1 a.m. PDT Tuesday, and officers arrived to find that the balcony on the fourth floor of the building had disintegrated.
Television footage showed that the balcony fell onto the one on the third floor. The building in the heart of downtown Berkeley has apartments in the upper floors and retail shops at ground level. The walkable neighborhood just blocks from the University of California, Berkeley, is dotted with museums, restaurants, coffee shops and chain stores.
The Library Gardens apartments were built in 2006 and are a block from campus, the Los Angeles Times reported. Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said it was trying to contact families of the victims and could not give details of their identities. Four died at the scene and one in a hospital, Flanagan said.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins said in a statement that he had "heard with the greatest sadness of the terrible loss of life of young Irish people and the critical injury of others in Berkeley, California today. My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of all those involved."
Coats said officers are still investigating and she doesn't have information on how the collapse occurred or what the people were doing on the structure at the time. Jerry Robinson, who lives nearby, told San Francisco news station KGO-TV that he had just gotten out of a movie when two hysterical people flagged down his car asking for a ride to a hospital to check on injured friends.
"They were all trying to notify parents, and things like that," he said. "They were trying to figure out from each other who was on the balcony and what their condition was." Police were working with fire officials and building inspectors to try to determine what caused the accident, Coats said.
She said she also didn't have information on the identities of the victims. "We don't have a lot of specific detail at this point because they (investigators) are still trying to work through it all," she said in a telephone interview.
Flanagan said the Irish consul general in San Francisco would be providing assistance to those affected.
Associated Press writer Bob Seavey in Phoenix contributed to this report.
Post a Comment