Six Irish citizens killed in balcony accident in California
Police in California are investigating a balcony collapse in Berkeley in which six Irish citizens are believed to have been killed.
The Department of Foreign Affairs have confirmed that a number of Irish citizens have lost their lives.
Dublin's Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "It is with great sadness that I confirm that a number of young Irish citizens have lost their lives, while a number of others have been seriously injured following the collapse of a balcony in Berkeley, California, earlier today."
"My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the deceased and those who have been injured in this appalling accident," said Mr Flanagan.
"My department in Dublin stands ready to provide all possible consular assistance to the Irish citizens affected by this tragedy."
It is reported the balcony fell 40 feet on to a footpath from the top of a four-storey building shortly after midnight local time. It is also being reported that a party was taking place in the apartment.
A number of others have also suffered serious injuries.
Library Gardens, the luxury apartment where the incident happened
Officer Jennifer Coats of the Berkeley Police Department has said that they are investigating and that they have no information on how the incident happened on the balcony, which was on the fourth floor of a building on Kitteridge Street.
Image via @abc7kristensze
Anyone with concerns about friends or family in the region, should call the Emergency Consular Response Team on +353-1-418 0200.
Irish citizens are also reported to be among those seriously injured. At least four people were taken to the Sutter Alta Bates Summit Medical Centre, though their nationalities are unknown at this time.
Update: 13.13: Minister Flanagan has just told RTE Radio that all five victims are Irish citizens. He confirmed that four people died at the scene and another died later in hospital.
Update: 13.35: Statement from President Michael D Higgins
I have 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 one's of all those involved. I have been informed of the consular assistance being provided to assist all of the families involved and I have asked to be kept informed as further details emerge.
Update: 13.58: It is being reported on ABC News in the US that at least 12 to 14 people were on the balcon at the time of the collapse.
Update: 14.12: Local TV reporter suggests some of the victims may be from Donegal.
Update: 14:21: Laura Harmon, USI President, said: ''The thoughts and sympathies of the whole student movement in Ireland are today with the families and friends of those young people caught up in this terrible event. We are anxiously awaiting further information from the authorities.''
Update: 14.23: Taoiseach Enda Kenny has tweeted
We mourn the tragic loss of young lives in California this morning. Spoke with @USAmbIreland who offered sympathies of the American people.— Enda Kenny (@EndaKennyTD) June 16, 2015
Update: 14.43: KTVU news in San Francisco reporting that one of the people who died was from San Jose.
Update: 15.31: The party was a 21st for a female student, according to NBC report.
Update: 15.41: Local media expect the death toll in the tragedy to increase, while also updating with a little more information on the five victims.
Update: 15.53: Local police were called at 11pm about a 'loud party in the area according to the SF Gate but they did not respond. The incident occurred at 12.40am.
Update: 16.24: People are starting to leave tributes outside the building, including this touching card.
Update 16.45: Sad news as death toll in California balcony collapse is now six.
Update: 16:56: Two more people remain in a critical condition in hospital.
Update: 17.34: More reports from other Irish people in the Library Gardens building, describing the scene and the calls home to assure parents they were okay.
Update: 17.50: Audio of the 911 dispatch call for the incident has been released.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan released the following statement:
“Today is an horrific day for those who have lost loved ones in tragic circumstances in San Francisco and for all those affected. In my Department and in our Consulate in San Francisco, the students and their families have been at the centre of our thoughts and actions today.
“We have taken a number of practical steps to assist. Our Consulate in San Francisco and the Department’s Emergency Consular Response Team in Dublin continue to work with the local authorities to identify and make contact with the families of all the Irish students involved in this morning’s tragic incident in Berkley.
“The identities of the deceased Irish citizens are in the process of being officially confirmed. Our thoughts and heartfelt sympathies are with the families and friends of the deceased at this most difficult time.
“We are also working with the authorities across several hospitals to confirm the extent of the injuries suffered by our citizens involved, and to relay this information to families as soon as possible.
“Our Consul General in San Francisco is in close contact with Irish community organisations on the ground, and I welcome their offers of assistance and expression of solidarity at this difficult time.
“My thoughts are also with the many young students, who escaped injury but will be deeply shocked at the events. I would like to pay tribute to those who assisted at the scene and who have been working with the local authorities. These will be difficult days for everyone who has experienced this traumatic event, but the students are not on their own and led by our Consulate in San Francisco all assistance possible will be extended to them.
“Our Consular Emergency Response line received an unprecedented volume of calls this afternoon. This demonstrates that this is an incident that has touched many Irish families – not just those whose sons and daughters were actually there, but all families who have a loved one travelling this summer.
“I would again urge Irish students in the San Francisco area who have not yet been in touch with their families in Ireland to please do so. To those families who have contacted the Department, I would ask that they update us if they have heard from their loved one.
“Anyone with concerns about friends or family in the region, should call the Emergency Consular Response Team on +353 1 418 0200.”