Balcony collapse: Candlelit vigil and Mass for Irish students

People gather at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park to mourn the loss of the students Image copyright Justin Sullivan
Image caption People gather at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park to mourn the loss of the students

The families and friends of Irish students who died and were injured when a balcony fell in California have gathered to pray.

Irish students held a candlelit vigil in a park close to the scene of the tragedy on Wednesday evening.

A special Mass was held at 19:00 local time in the Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, to remember all those affected by the tragedy.

It happened at a 21st birthday party in an apartment in Berkeley on Tuesday.

Fr Aidan McAleenan, who is originally from Banbridge, in County Down, delivered the homily.

He said: "It is a terrible journey to take that flight to or from Ireland and that whole family knew what they were coming to, and you want to get there, but you don't want to get there.

"They want to see their loved ones. They want to touch them, they want to hold them and they want to kiss them."

Image caption The victims: Top row from left - Ashley Donohoe, Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke. Bottom row from left: Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Miller and Niccolai Schuster

Five of the six young people who died were from the Republic of Ireland, three were students at University College Dublin and two of the young women were cousins.

Those who were killed are:

Ashley Donohoe, 22

Olivia Burke, 21

Eoghan Culligan, 21

Niccolai Schuster, 21

Lorcan Miller, 21

Eimear Walsh, 21

Image copyright ELIJAH NOUVELAGE
Image caption A candlelit vigil has been held in memory of the students who died
Image copyright ELIJAH NOUVELAGE
Image caption The victims were remembered by the many mourners gathered on Wednesday night

Seven other students remain in hospital, two of them are critically ill.

Ms Donohoe, who had dual US-Irish citizenship, lived in California while the other five who died all had home addresses in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Culligan and Mr Schuster were both past pupils of St Mary's College in Rathmines, Dublin.

Image copyright ELIJAH NOUVELAGE
Image caption Fr Aidan McAleenan delivered the homily during the Mass
Image copyright PETER DASILVA
Image caption One of the messages left near the scene of the tragedy

The majority of the victims were in the US on work visas, as part of the J1 USA summer work and travel programme.

California engineers say water damage may have caused the balcony structure to give way.

Authorities said 13 people were on the fourth-floor balcony when it collapsed.

An initial investigation found that the balcony support's beams may not have been sealed properly at the time of construction, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said.

"More than likely, it was caused by rain and water damage," Mr Bates said.

In the Republic of Ireland, books of condolences have been opened at UCD, in the Mansion House, Dublin, in Cork and in Galway.

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