Among those was Alfredo Durán, who carries out maintenance in the Library Gardens building and who also lives there. In local media reports, he said that he heard a party and “a lot of music and noise” before the balcony collapsed.
“I’m scared and concerned for the building,” he said. “I live here. Anything can happen.”
The apartment is directly above the Cafe Clem, which used its Facebook page to post: “This is a terrible tragedy that is making national headlines. Unfortunately, this took place just above Cafe Clem. Needless to say the cafe will be closed today. Our hearts go out to the families of these young victims.” Others also bore witness to the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.
The LA Times reported the comments of taxi driver Vikas Aggarwal, 40. He said he was waiting at the Berkeley station in the downtown area when four Irish students ran to his car. He then drove them to the Highland Hospital where some of the injured were taken.
“They said their friends were being sent to Highland Hospital and they kept telling me to hurry, hurry, hurry,” Mr Aggarwal told the newspaper. “They were all crying.
“I know that building. It’s a new building. Lots of students live there, mostly international. Lots of parties. I guess the balcony couldn’t handle having so many people, I think there were eight to 12. It was all Irish students. They come for summer study and they party a lot.”
Jennifer Coats, a spokeswoman for the Berkeley Police Department, said officers had been confronted with “a traumatic scene”.
Later, City of Berkeley spokesman Byron White said: “Officers said it was a very disturbing scene. Every time you have a young loss of life, it’s disturbing. It stays with you.”
On its Twitter account the Berkeley Public Library, which is on the same street, described the incident as “tragic”.
The Mayor of Berkeley, Thomas Bates, used the same word and a spokesman for the City of Berkeley said: “The City is working closely with the Consulate General of Ireland, which has established a crisis line for families seeking information: 011-353-1418-0200.”
It also said building inspectors had visited the area.