World – Six die in freak balcony accident
CALIFORNIA –– Six people were killed, and seven others seriously injured, when a fourth-floor balcony in California gave way.
At least five of the dead are believed to be young people from Ireland.
Police found debris on the street below after an emergency call at 1 a.m. local time in Berkeley.
The victims are believed to have been holding a 21st birthday party at the time, Irish officials said, but the cause of collapse is unknown.
They are believed to have been in the United States on temporary worker visas.
Photos taken at the scene appear to show a balcony on the fourth floor of the building fallen to the balcony on the level below.
Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, has said that police told him there were 13 people on the balcony when it collapsed.
Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan said that four of the victims died at the scene and another died in hospital.
The Alameda County coroner’s office later told the BBC a sixth person had died in hospital.
The balcony, which is approximately five feet long and ten feet wide, broke from the building around 1:41 a.m. local time.
Berkeley Police spokesman Byron White said first responders described the scene as “quite disturbing”.
Many of those hurt have life-threatening injuries, said Jennifer Coats, a Berkeley Police Department spokeswoman.
Police received a complaint about loud noise at the flat about an hour before the balcony collapsed, but did not go to the building to investigate, they said.
Two Irish students who were asleep in the building when the incident occurred described a loud sound when the balcony fell.
“I just heard a bang and a lot of shouting,” said Dan Sullivan.
Another student, Mark Neville, said: “I walked out and I saw rubble on the street and a bunch of Irish students crying.”
Flanagan said the people who were injured in the incident were Irish as well.
The identities of the victims are not yet being released, pending family notification.
Irish president Michael Higgins said he had “heard with the greatest sadness of the terrible loss of life of young Irish people and the critical injury of others in Berkeley, California, today”.
He said his heart went out to the families and their loved ones.
The apartment building was constructed in 2006, according to theLos Angeles Times.
A Berkeley city official said that building inspectors had visited the building today. Three remaining balconies on the building have been closed.