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Saturday 3 December 2016

Berkeley tragedy: Remains of Olivia Burke arrive in Dublin accompanied by family and over 30 friends

The remains of Olivia Burke arrive home from San Francisco. She will be reposing at Fanagan's Funeral Home, Aungier Street tomorrow evening. Photo: Mark Condren
The remains of Olivia Burke arrive home from San Francisco. She will be reposing at Fanagan's Funeral Home, Aungier Street tomorrow evening. Photo: Mark Condren

The remains of Olivia Burke who died in the Berkeley balcony collapse have arrived back in Dublin from San Francisco.

The Aer Lingus flight, also carried more than a dozen family members and the remaining 34 students who were in the Berkeley apartment at the time of the tragedy.

Ms Burke’s remains were repatriated to Ireland a day after the other Irish students who died in the tragedy.

Her joint funeral with her cousin Ashley Donohoe was held in Saturday in the States. Mourners heard they were like twins in life and had been discovered embracing in death by Ashley’s mother, Jackie after the fourth-floor balcony they were standing on collapsed at a birthday party at the Library Gardens apartments in Berkeley, California.

The coffins that held the remains of Niccolai Schuster, Lorcán Miller, Eoghan Culligan and Eimear Walsh were brought home yesterday, accompanied by their grieving relatives, on board Aer Lingus flight EI 146, direct from San Francisco.

As the remains of four of the students killed in the balcony collapse in Berkeley, California arrived back on Irish soil, a blanket of sadness seemed to envelope the airport and its surroundings.

Due to land at 11.35am, the flight touched down early on Sunday morning, at 11.07am.

Father Des Doyle, chaplain of the Dublin Airport church, was on hand to preside over a brief prayer service shortly after arrival.

A Garda escort then led a cortege of three hearses from Dublin Airport onto the M50, with gardaí in black gloves directing traffic.

In a deeply poignant and dignified tribute, gardaí posted at roundabouts formally saluted the remains as they passed.

There was a delay before the hearse containing the coffin of Niccolai Schuster set off from the airport shortly after 12.30pm, accompanied by four garda outriders, with the remains again solemnly saluted by gardaí along the route.

In a moving statement issued before they departed for Ireland, the families thanked the students who were in the apartment and apartment complex that fatal night.

"The manner and speed at which they reached out to our families, to our Consul, and to each other was faultless," they said.

"Our children were extraordinarily blessed in their friends and we are enormously proud of them.

"As we leave Berkeley and return home to Ireland with our beloved sons and daughters, we would like to thank everyone in America and Ireland for their sympathy and support, which has been a tremendous comfort to us at this tragic time."

Meanwhile in an emotional Facebook post, Leo Moran, the lead guitarist with the legendary Galway band the Saw Doctors has written a beautiful tribute to the deceased students, saying: “I didn’t know any of you but I miss you. You are a loss to us all, to our little nation. You are the kind of people we need and need to treasure.”

Leo wrote of his own J1 experience, recalling how in late April, early May, in the familiar surrounds of NUIG, then UCG, the exams would be drawing to an end and the iconic café on the concourse, Smokey Joe’s would be growing quieter.

“The plans made, the flight booked, the paperwork done, the fee for the J1 visa saved up for and paid,” he wrote.

“Everyone else’s United States plans sounded braver and more courageous than yours – but yours were yours.

We flew proudly and expectantly over the ocean on the huge bird tattooed with the Irish emblem.”

“We fell in love.

We fell in love with people, of course, but also with the new country - its aromas– gasoline, exotic food, sweat, the pungency of the humidity and the heat, the crickets clicking in the warm night air, the warmth of the ocean, the sweet smells of candy floss and roasted nuts,” he recalled wistfully.

“We fell in love with getting around the law that told us we couldn’t drink even though we were over eighteen.”

“We fell in love with being tiny fish, mere plankton, in their vast ocean – but tiny as we were, we found and made our own little place there, becoming a part of its community, helped, for the most part, by those who had gone before us - whether they had made the journey a week ago or a century ago.”

“We fell in love with the freedom, the carelessness. When we look back it seems completely careless, but it wasn’t – careless is a state of mind rarely achieved by human beings.”

“We did care. We cared about getting a start, bringing home some money for the Winter in college, we cared about our loved ones and the ones we wanted to love, we cared about getting around safely and getting back home to the five bedroom house with twenty four lodgers, sleeping on floors and couches, at the end of the night and getting to the job again tomorrow, often to work the quieter and less lucrative shifts that are regularly given to the Summer waiting staff.”

“We even cared about home now and again, like on a Sunday morning where we’d gather in an Irish pub to watch our county line-out in an All-Ireland semi-final, throw-in 10.15 East Coast time, 07.15 in California. We’d see the Irish August sunshine illuminating Croke Park and our fellow countymen and women smiling or wincing and for a few minutes we’d even wish we were there.”

“We loved this country we were in, in many ways a big playground to us. And we trusted it – we trusted their roller-coasters and their trains and their cars and their buildings.”

“And at the end of the Summer, that glorious few months in the heat and the humidity, working and playing and learning hard with joy and passion, we came home safely, almost every single one of us, carrying the thrill and the education of it forever more with us, whether we were to take off again and make a new life abroad or stay at home,” he wrote.

“Ashley, Eimear, Eoghan, Lorcan, Niccolai and Olivia – I didn’t know any of you, but I miss you. You are a loss to us all, to our little nation. You are the kind of people we need, and need to treasure.”

“My heart goes out to your parents and your families and friends, their now having to live with a void that will never be filled.”

“May you all rest in peace, your lives now a symbol of Ireland’s bright and energetic youth, our greatest asset, tragically lost.”

Eoghan Culligan

A wake for Eoghan took place at Fanagan's Funeral Home in Dundrum yesterday before his remains were brought to his family home.

He will remain there tonight before his removal tomorrow to the Church of the Annunciation in Rathfarnham for his funeral Mass at 11am.

Eimear Walsh

Eimear is reposing at Fanagan's Funeral Home, Dundrum, from 2pm until 5pm today.

Her funeral Mass will take place tomorrow at 11am in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock. This will be followed by burial at Shanganagh Cemetery.

Niccolai Schuster

Niccolai is reposing at his home this evening from 5pm until 8pm.

His removal is on Wednesday morning to the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar, for funeral mass at 11am and then to the crematorium at Mount Jerome, Harold's Cross.

Olivia Burke

Olivia will be reposing in Fanagan's Funeral Home, Aungier Street, tomorrow from 5pm until 8pm.

Her removal will take place on Wednesday morning to the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, for funeral Mass at 11am followed by burial in Deansgrange Cemetery.

Lorcán Miller

Plans are still being finalised for the funeral of Lorcán Miller from Shankill in Co Dublin.

His funeral is expected to take place later this week but details have yet to be confirmed. The body of the UCD student was brought back to Ireland yesterday by his parents.

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