The Union of Students of Ireland and students' union representatives across Ireland have reacted to the deaths of six Irish students in Berkeley, California.
Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Ashley Donohoe, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eimear Walsh died after a balcony they were standing on collapsed. It is the greatest loss of Irish life abroad in over 30 years.
Miller, Walsh and Schuster all attended UCD, while Burke went to IADT Dun Laoighre and Culligan studied at DIT. The remaining victim, Donohoe, was an Irish-American who knew the group through Burke, her cousin.
Seven others were injured in the accident. Among those was TCD student Clodagh Cogley, who the University Times reported was "doing really well" after undergoing operations on her spine, shoulders and knees.
Colleges across the country have been paying their respects to the dead. TCD will be flying its flag at half mast in honour of the students today, while UCC has opened a book of condolences in the Honan Chapel on its campus.
NUIG has also opened a book of condolences in the Galway's City Hall with Mayor Frank Fahey and the presidents of NUIGSU and GMITSU accompanying him. An online book of condolences was also set up by NUIG.
UCDSU President, Mark O'Halloran posted on Facebook that the the families and friends of the students have his "deepest condolences". He also urged students affected to contact the SU, saying, "We are here and we can be reached, even from abroad, and that we offer a welfare service and advice service and a referral service to student advisers and counsellors. We are here so please don't hesitate to contact us."
DITSU President, Fiachra Duffy tweeted that there will be a reflection service for Eoghan Culligan and the other victims in the courtyard at the Aungier Street campus. It will be live streamed for those in America.
IADTSU also posted its condolences for the students, saying “profound shock and sadness” was felt while informing students of the news of Olivia Burke’s death.
Speaking on Ireland Live on UTV on Tuesday, USI President Laura Harmon said students across Ireland had felt the impact of the deaths, saying, "The entire student movement was deeply shocked and deeply saddened by the news of this as was the Irish community in general.
"It was a tragic, tragic event that occurred and we extend our deepest sympathies and our thoughts are with their families and friends and loved ones. I can't even begin to imagine the shock that their families are feeling now, and the sadness that they're feeling and having their loved ones away from them, in a different time zone as well, must be very difficult."
She also noted the popularity of the region with Irish students on their J1: "It's certainly very popular, there would be a big Irish community over there for the summer with many students migrating there to learn or to work." Over 7,000 Irish students travelled to America this summer.
Travel firm USIT has also confirmed that J1 visa holders directly affected by the accident are entitled to free flights home thanks to its mandatory insurance policy.
Up to two family members per student can travel over as well. A student does not have to have been injured to avail of this.