A fourth-floor balcony collapsed early Tuesday in Berkeley, Calif., killing six and injuring seven, according to police officials. The victims were at a 21st birthday party two blocks away from the University of California, Berkeley campus.
All of the victims were young students from Ireland, Irish officials confirmed. Police received a call a little before 1 a.m. and arrived on the scene to find that the apartment balcony had collapsed onto the one below it, eventually falling onto a footpath.
Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said all the victims were in the United States on temporary visas. The victims’ identities are being withheld while authorities contact the families.
Hundreds of thousands of Irish students travel to America each year to study or work. The San Francisco metro area is a popular destination for these students, Irish Embassy spokeswoman Siobhan Miley told the New York Times.
Berkeley Police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats said that several of the wounded have injuries considered critical or life threatening, and that police officers, fire officials, and building inspectors are working to determine the cause of the collapse. Initial reports included fewer fatalities, but additional students have succumbed to their injuries.
Issues of overcrowding may have been at fault, as 13 people were on the balcony at the time it collapsed, according to police officials. James Mullaney, a resident of the same apartment block, told Irish news site Herald.ie that the apartment balconies were “small enough,” and estimated that they would only hold about six people.
The building, Library Gardens Apartments, was built in 2006, according to the LA Times. The complex’s website describes it as “the premiere choice in convenience for Berkeley apartment living.”
Irish president Michael D. Higgins released a statement saying, "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.”
"My heart goes out to the families and loved ones 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."
Material from the Associated Press was used in this article.