An apartment building balcony collapsed early Tuesday in Berkeley, killing at least five and leaving eight others injured– among them a “number of young Irish citizens,” authorities said.
Many of the injured have critical, life-threatening wounds, Officer Jennifer Coats, a spokeswoman with the Berkeley Police Department, said.
Ireland’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter that Irish citizens are among the dead.
Charlie Flanagan, Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs and trade, said he believes all five of those killed in the collapse are Irish.. He said four died at the scene and one in a hospital
Irish President Michael D. Higgins said in a statement that 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. My heart goes out to the families and loved one’s of all those involved.”
Police received a call about the incident shortly before 1 a.m. local time Tuesday, and when officers arrived they found that the balcony on the fourth floor of the building on Kittredge Street had disintegrated. Television footage of the scene showed that the fourth-floor balcony fell onto the one on the third floor.
Irish broadcaster RTE reported that there was a 21st birthday party taking place in the apartment before the balcony collapsed, according to Sky News. The building is two blocks away from the University of California, Berkeley campus.
Coats said officers are still investigating and she doesn’t have any information on how it occurred or what the people were doing on the structure at the time.
“We don’t know what happened. Officers on scene talking with people,” Coats said.
Coats said she also didn’t have information on the identities of the victims, including their ages and gender.
“We don’t have a lot of specific detail at this point because they (investigators) are still trying to work through it all,” she said in a telephone interview.
The building — built in 2006, according to Sky News — has apartments in the upper floors and retail shops on the ground floor.