COTATI, Calif. (AP) – Two cousins who were among the victims killed when a balcony collapsed will be mourned at a Northern California funeral and memorial service on Saturday.
Ashley Donohoe, 22, the lone American among the dead, will be honored at the funeral at a Catholic church in Cotati, near her home in Rohnert Park.
Her cousin, 21-year-old Olivia Burke, will also be memorialized before her body is sent back to her native Ireland.
A celebration of the women’s lives will follow at Sonoma State University.
They were among the six people killed on Tuesday when the balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party, tossing 13 people to the street 50 feet below. Seven people are being treated in hospitals.
The other four dead victims were mourned at a Friday night vigil in Oakland attended by family members and dozens of their fellow Irish students – including some who saw them in their final moments.
Hearses carried the four metal caskets into St. Columba Catholic Church, where about 15 of the victims’ immediate family members huddled together in the rectory for about an hour before entering the church for the private viewing. Reporters were not allowed inside.
A bus and a van bearing about 50 other Irish students living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the summer, as the four victims were, came to the church to honor the dead. The group included students who had been at the party where the balcony collapsed.
The church’s sanctuary was decorated with cloths in the colors of the Irish flag and had screens in each corner of the room with projected images of the six students.
Several city officials from Berkeley visited to pay respects to the families. They included the city’s mayor, police chief and fire chief, along with first responders who aided the victims the night of the accident.
Jimmy Deenihan, Ireland’s minister for the diaspora, said the tragedy had garnered great attention in Ireland, and he was touched by how much support for the victims and their families he has found in the U.S.
“You can’t really appreciate the trauma they are going through; only they can,” Deenihan said.
Those being honored were Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh, all 21-year-olds from Ireland.
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