THE body of the final victim of the Berkeley balcony collapse is to arrive in Ireland this morning, as the grieving families prepare to lay their children to rest.
Olivia Burke, 21, was one of six Irish students who lost their lives in last Tuesday’s tragedy in Berkeley, California.
This morning her family are accompnaying her on her final journey home, on a special Aer Lingus flight back to Dublin
Along with her 22-year-old cousin Ashley Donohoe, an Irish-American, and Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller and Eimear Walsh, all 21, Olivia died after falling 40 feet from a fourth floor balcony which collapsed, sending 13 young students falling to the ground.
Olivia and Ashley’s families held a special funeral service for the pair, who were extremely close, in Ashley’s native Rohnert Park, California, over the weekend.
The bodies of Niccolai, Eoghan, Lorcán and Eimear were flown back to Ireland yesterday, ahead of this week’s funeral services in Dublin.
The four students’ families released a statement, as they prepared to leave America.
“As we leave Berkeley and return home to Ireland with our beloved sons and daughters, Eimear, Eoghan, Lorcán and Niccolai, we would like to thank everyone in America and Ireland for their sympathy and support, which has been a tremendous comfort to us at this tragic time,” they said.
“Particularly we thank the local authorities, emergency services, medical staff, parishes and communities of Berkeley.
“In addition we are forever grateful to the Irish Consul, Philip Grant, and his local team, and also the amazing service and support received from Aer Lingus, the Department of Foreign Affairs, US Ambassador Anne Anderson, and a special appreciation to Minister [Jimmy] Deenihan.
“We cannot thank enough the students that were in the apartment and apartment complex that night.
“The manner and speed at which they reached out to our families, to our Consul, and to each other was faultless. Our children were extraordinarily blessed in their friends and we are enormously proud of them.”
Olivia, who returns to Ireland today, is the last to be repatriated.
Along with the Donohoe family, Olivia’s parents released a statement ahead of the funeral service held in California on Saturday (June 20).
“The family want everyone to know and understand that Ashley and Olivia were two intelligent, talented and hardworking women. They had bright futures ahead of them,” they said.
“Our daughters and all the other students were responsible young adults who were celebrating their friend’s 21st birthday in what they felt was a safe environment. Unfortunately that turned to tragedy through no fault of their own.”
Funeral services in Ireland will begin tomorrow (June 23), when Eimear Walsh is laid to rest in Shanganagh Cemetery, Dublin, following an 11am funeral mass due to be held at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock.
Rathfarnham native Eoghan Culligan will also be laid to rest tomorrow, in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold’s Cross. His funeral mass takes place in the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham, at 11am.
Niccolai Schuster’s heartbroken parents John and Graziella, along with his “brother and best friend” Alexei, will say their final goodbyes to the 21-year-old on Wednesday (June 24), as he is interred at Mount Jerome Crematorium in Harold’s Cross, Dublin, following an 11am funeral mass at the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar.
Olivia Burke’s family have yet to announce the details for her funeral while Lorcán Miller’s arrangements have not been made public so far.
Meanwhile, a book of condolences is open to the Irish in Britain who wish to express their condolences at the Irish Embassy, today and tomorrow from 11am to 3pm.
Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall said of the tragedy: "Like everyone else in Ireland, I am deeply shocked and saddened by the death of the six Irish students in Berkeley. At times like this the global Irish family and many of the Irish in Britain share a terrible pain on the loss of such young lives."