Shock, grief as J1 students buried

by Gazette Reporter

ONE WEEK after the untimely death of five J1 students, mostly from the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown area, the funerals of four of the five have taken place.
Six students – the five J1 students, and an American cousin of one – lost their lives when a balcony collapsed at a party at an apartment complex in Berkeley, California, killing them and seriously injuring several others.
Eimear Walsh, a UCD medical student who also attended Loreto College in Foxrock, was the first of the Irish students’ funerals in a week that marked an outpouring of grief across the DLR area.
Ms Walsh’s funeral procession was led by her mother Patricia, father Jim and brother Robert, with local priest Fr Paul Ward acting as celebrant on the day.
Also in attendance on the day were Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Heather Humprheys, with the US Embassy represented by Stuart Dwyer, deputy chief of mission.
Hundreds of people descended upon the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, to offer their condolences to the bereaved Walsh family, and both Fr Ward and Ms Walsh’s friends paid tribute to the “beautiful girl who was always smiling”.
Fr Ward spoke about Ms Walsh and how he had known her for most of her 21 years, and spoke to her family and friends about continuing to live their lives in her name.
He said: “We’re now very aware of how precious and fragile life is, so appreciate the gift of life to its fullest and take on the mantle that Eimear has left behind by making the world, and the future, a better place in her memory.”
Ms Walsh’s father, Jim, spoke at the end of the ceremony and said: “Eimear was such a beautiful person, a wonderful daughter and sister. We were very proud of who she was and what she achieved.
“She was among other things kind-hearted, generous, fun-loving, independent minded, very bright, confident, but never pretentious.
“Like any young person, she was interested in having a good time, hanging out with friends, essentially just living in the moment. Eimear was deceptively easy going, but she was very determined when she set her mind to doing something.
“Eimear had many talents and interests – she was a beautiful singer, she loved dancing, she took part in various school musicals and plays.
“Now that we have lost Eimear so tragically, there is a huge void in our livesl; however, knowing Eimear, she would want us to be strong for each other, pick ourselves up and keep going. We hope that one day we will be reunited.”
On the same day, Eoghan Culligan’s funeral took place at the Church of the Annunciation in Rathfarnham.
Hundreds of mourners filled the church to pay their respects, with the funeral procession led by Mr Culligan’s mother Marie, father Gerry, and his brothers Andrew and Stephen.
At the funeral, Mr Culligan’s mother spoke of the overwhelming loss at losing her son, and said: “Eoghan was the light in our lives, we have lost a beacon that will never shine again. Our family’s hearts are broken. We will love Eoghan until the day we die.”
The funerals of Niccolai Schuster, Olivia Burke and Lorcan Miller also took place in the following days, with hundreds of mourners attending each ceremony.
Lorcan Miller, whose funeral is this Friday, June 26, and who was a UCD medical student from Shankill, is survived by his parents Ken and Sinead – a former teacher at the school, now working at Alexandra College in Milltown – and three younger siblings, Jamie, Lucy and Poppy.
The principal of St Andrew’s College, Peter Fraser, told The Gazette: “Lorcan joined us in first year and his mother did her hDip in St Andrew’s and taught here in the past. Lorcan is remembered fondly as an outstanding academic.
“His desire to do medicine was driven by a desire to help others. He was very empathetic and genuinely wanted to make a difference in the world. He retained a connection with St Andrew’s, coming back to help students prepare for exams, etc.”
Niccolai Schuster, from Terenure was the grand-nephew of playwright John B Keane. He was studying politics and history at UCD. He is survived by his parents, John and Graziella. He attended St Mary’s College, Rathmines, until 2012.
A message posted on the school website said: “The thoughts and prayers of everybody in the St Mary’s community are with the families of Niccolai and Eoghan, and the other youngsters who died or were injured in the heartbreaking accident.”
“We also pray particularly for those being treated in hospital, and their families.”
Olivia Burke was another former Loreto Foxrock girl, studying entrepreneurship and management at Dun Laohgaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT).
Her funeral Mass took place in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, on Wednesday, after The Gazette went to print.
Ms Burke had a joint funeral with her cousin, Ashley Donohoe, in St Jospeh’s Catholic Church in Cotati, California, before being brought back to Ireland.
Ms Donohoe was the daughter of Dublin parents Jackie and George, who emigrated to the US in 1989. She was studying at Sanoma State University near San Francisco, and was buried in her native California last Sunday.
Ms Burke did a five-month work experience placement at East Coast Radio as part of her IADT course.
The president of IADT, Dr Annie Doona, said Ms Burke was very well respected and was doing very well on her course.
IADT has provided an on-campus counsellor for any students who wish to avail of the service.
Separate to the tragic news of the six students’ death, one of the other Irish students injured in the balcony collapse has been released from hospital in California.
Sean Fahey, from Rathmines in Dublin, is now due to travel home to Ireland.The other six students injured in the tragedy remain in hospital, but all are reported to be making improvements.

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