Irish Consulate hosts vigil to commemorate victims of Berkeley balcony collapse

Alvin Wu/Senior Staff

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Friends, family members and first responders commemorated the 13 Irish victims of the June 16 balcony collapse with a private candlelight vigil in Downtown Berkeley on Sunday evening.

The vigil — hosted by the Irish Consulate and the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, both in San Francisco — was called the “Month’s Mind,” which, according to Irish Consul General Philip Grant, is an Irish custom that gives family and loved ones an opportunity to join together a month after a death to show support.

The vigil commemorated the six killed and seven injured in the June 16 balcony collapse at 2020 Kittredge St. It was also the first opportunity, Grant said, for family and friends to meet those who were involved in the crisis, such as the first responders, firefighters and police officers.

“The fact that the police and the fire service here reached out and allowed us to use their facilities … was a wonderful outreach,” Grant said.

More than 50 people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park at 8:30 p.m. At about 9 p.m., they began placing candles on a tiled wall in the park and laid 13 white roses to represent the victims.

“I think it (was) a terrible, terrible tragedy — one of the worst in the history of our city,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “But we’re trying to recover, trying to do good laws that make sense in the future, making sure that all balconies are safe … and also requesting the state to go forward with getting better building requirements.”

As a result of the balcony collapse, Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt amendments that will, among other stipulations, require inspections of weather-exposed structures every three years.

The vigil ended about 9:30 p.m., and Berkeley Fire Department Chief Gil Dong said it was an important time for Berkeley’s first responders to get together with the family members and the Irish Consulate to continue to offer condolences.

“We’re just here to continue to support the family and the loved ones,” said Michael Meehan, chief of Berkeley Police Department. “Our officers go through this … pretty traumatic thing, (but) it’s nothing compared to what the families have been through.”

Sujin Shin/Staff

Sujin Shin/Staff


Contact Sujin Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sujinjshin.