BERKELEY, Calif. - At least five people were killed and eight were seriously injured when a balcony collapsed early Tuesday at an apartment building here. Many or all of the victims were young Irish tourists.
Officer Byron White of the Berkeley Police said 13 people were on the fourth-floor balcony when it collapsed about 12:40 a.m., sending debris and bodies plunging to the street. Less than an hour earlier, the police had received a call of a loud party, Officer White said. He said he had no other information about that incident.
Though the police could not confirm the victims’ ages or nationalities, a spokeswoman for the Irish Embassy in Washington, Siobhan Miley, confirmed that at least four of the five dead had been Irish citizens. Ms. Miley said she believed many of the injured were also Irish.
Ms. Miley said the Irish victims were believed to be college-age adults spending the summer in the United States on work visas. Thousands of Irish students travel to America each year on the visas often arriving in June and leaving in September. The San Francisco area is among the most popular destinations.
The Irish ambassador, Anne Anderson, said: “It is heartbreaking to think of these bright young lives cut short. All our thoughts are with the bereft families, and with those seriously injured and their loved ones.”
Officer Jennifer Coats of the Berkeley Police Department told The Associated Press that many of the injured had life-threatening wounds.
Officer Coats said that the police were still investigating and that she did not have any information on what the people were doing on the balcony when it collapsed.
“We don’t know what happened,” Officer Coats told the NBC News television station in the Bay Area, adding that officers at the scene were speaking with witnesses. “We don’t have a lot of specific detail at this point because they are still trying to work through it all.”
Gerald Robinson, a massage therapist living in Berkeley, said he was on his way home from the movies when he saw numerous fire trucks and ambulances drive by. Then a group of people flagged him down to take them to Highland Hospital to see friends. One girl was bloodied and another girl had an injured leg. Everyone had Irish accents.
After arriving at the hospital, Mr. Robinson said he saw “15 people, some with blood on them, some without shoes on, worried about their friends.”
The collapse occurred near the University of California campus here, but it was not clear whether those injured were students. Young Irish people, many of them on work visas, frequent the Bay Area this time of year. “Every summer as long as I can remember, a large group of people come from Ireland to visit,” Officer White said.
He said the apartment was full of people not just from Ireland, but also from elsewhere. The inquiry into the collapse was not yet being treated as a criminal investigation, Officer White said.
Four people died at the scene of the collapse, and one more was pronounced dead at Highland Hospital, the authorities said. Carolyn Kemp, a spokeswoman for Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, said four people had been taken from the scene to that facility. She had no further information on their conditions.
At the apartment in Berkeley, in a busy stretch of the cityâs downtown, television news trucks filled the block Tuesday morning. The double doors leading to the fallen balcony were shut, with a large warning sticker affixed to them.
Source: Free News Headlines World Berkeley Balcony Collapse Kills 5, Including Irish Tourists