Balcony collapse kills six Irish students in California

BERKELEY, Calif. - An apartment balcony crowded with birthday revelers collapsed early on Tuesday near the University of California at Berkeley, killing six college students from Ireland and seriously injuring several others, authorities said.

BERKELEY, Calif. - An apartment balcony crowded with birthday revelers collapsed early on Tuesday near the  University of California  at Berkeley, killing six college students from  Ireland  and seriously injuring several others, authorities said.

The victims, most if not all of whom were working in the  San Francisco Bay  area on temporary visas for summer vacation, had been celebrating a friend's 21st birthday in the fourth floor apartment when the tragedy occurred, according to Irish officials in  Dublin .

There was no immediate indication from authorities that the collapse was anything but an accident. Irish Prime Minister  Enda Kenny , citing information from police in Berkeley, said 13 people had been on the balcony when it fell.

"My heart breaks for the parents who lost children this morning," Kenny said in a statement.

Pictures from the scene showed that the fourth-floor balcony gave way and pancaked onto the third-story balcony just beneath it at the  Library Gardens  apartment complex, about two blocks from the  UC Berkeley campus  across the bay from  San Francisco .


The coroner bureau of the  Alameda County Sheriff's Office  said six fatalities had been confirmed. Four people were declared dead at the scene and two others died at a hospital,  the San Francisco Chronicle  reported.

Berkeley Police spokeswoman  Jennifer Coats  said as many as eight people were badly hurt in the collapse. Injuries sustained by the surviving victims, she said, were "very serious and potentially life-threatening."

Kenny and Irish Foreign Minister  Charlie Flanagan  said all the victims were "young Irish citizens" visiting the United States  on so-called J1 visas, and that the six killed were students.

"This was an appalling tragedy," Flanagan told Irish national broadcaster RTE. "A party, a 21st birthday party, turning into tragedy in a moment."

Thousands of students from Irish universities travel to the  United States  on temporary working visas every summer before returning to  Ireland  to complete their studies.

Coats said callers had first reported the collapse at the four-story apartment block in the downtown area of the college town at around 12:45 a.m.

Neighbor  Jason Biswas , 16, a high school student who lives in the building, said the collapse woke up his parents.

"They thought it was an earthquake until we all looked out the window and realized what happened," he told Reuters.


Biswas said he saw "a bunch of bodies on the ground, most of them not responding."

Bystanders later left flowers outside the building in memory of those killed.

Following the collapse, authorities declared the apartment's remaining balconies off-limits as a precaution.

Police and fire department personnel and others were working to determine what caused the collapse.

Gene St. Onge , an engineer from nearby  Oakland , reviewed a picture of the detached balcony at the request of the San Francisco Chronicle  and said inadequate waterproofing where the deck meets the building appeared to be a factor.

"This appears to be a classic case," he said. "If the waterproofing is substandard, rainwater can enter the building, causing dry rot, which can destroy the wood members within a short time ... only a few years from construction."

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