Berkeley tragedy: Friends and teachers pay their emotional tributes to popular students

Friends and loved ones of those who died in the US balcony collapse have begun paying emotional tributes.

Berkeley tragedy: Friends and teachers pay their emotional tributes to popular students

UCD students Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan had studied together at St Mary’s College in Rathmines, Dublin, and left for college life in the class of 2012.

The school offered prayers for all those who died and were injured in the accident at the start of the summer J1 season in California.

“The thoughts and prayers of everybody in the St Mary’s community are with the families of Niccolai and Eoghan, and the other Irish youngsters who died or were injured in the heartbreaking accident in the US,” St Mary’s said.

READ MORE: New York Times apologises for Berkeley article .

Eoghan Culligan was also a highly regarded Gaelic football player and turned out for Ballyboden St Enda’s in a county final in 2011.

“Eoghan was very popular with his team-mates and this tragic news is keenly felt by all members of our club, but especially by those players and mentors who knew him well,” the club said.

“We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to his parents Gerry and Marie and to his brothers Stephen and Andrew and to all the extended Culligan family.”

Niccolai, 21, was a grand-nephew of the writer and playwright, John B Keane, from Listowel, Co Kerry. His grandmother was the late Peg Keane Schuster, a sister of the late Mr Keane, who married a Czech man and settled in Dublin.

A family member described Niccolai as a lively young man, always laughing and smiling and great fun.

“He was the life and soul of every party and had an amazing circle of friends. Everyone loved him and he’ll be missed terribly,” said the family member.

Along with his parents, John, who has a machine tool business, mother, Graziella, and sister, Alexi, Niccolai was a regular visitor to relatives in Listowel and the Schuster family holidayed in Parknasilla, Co Kerry, for several years.

He was in Listowel for Writer’s Week two weeks ago.

Also, one of those injured in the collapse, Aoife Beary, 21, is the daughter of architect Mike Beary, a native of Clieveragh, Listowel, now living in Dublin.

She is in hospital in Berekley and is believed to have suffered serious injuries in the accident. Ms Beary, whose birthday was being celebrated on the night, was on a J1 visa to the US for the summer.

She was renting the apartment where the tragedy happened, along with Olivia Burke and Eimear Walsh, both of whom died in the collapse.

Lorcan Miller was a former pupil at St Andrew’s College in Booterstown, south Dublin, where his mother had taught Irish, and had gone on to study medicine in UCD, as had Eimear Walsh.

Headmaster Peter Fraser recalled him as an exceptional person.

“The one thing speaking to colleagues this morning was the fact that he was a positive, engaging, decent boy who was incredibly talented, but normal, modest and balanced about it all. He was hugely popular,” Mr Fraser said.

Lorcan was deputy head boy in his final school year before leaving for college in 2012.

“He would have been very well known by almost everyone in the college, and in such a big school that’s quite an achievement. He had a rounded talent. He was very keen on issues of social awareness and social conscience,” Mr Fraser said.

Lorcan played on the school hockey team, had roles in the choir and musicals and also took key positions in the school’s Model United Nations with Mr Fraser adding that teachers were particularly fond of him.

Olivia Burke was remembered as a very well-liked student in a close group at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

The 21-year-old from Foxrock was expected back at the south Dublin college in September to start her final year of a degree in entrepreneurship and management.

The institute’s president Annie Doona said there are counsellors on hand for friends and family turning up at the college today to remember her.

“It’s a very sad day here for her fellow students and for the staff,” she said.

“Olivia was very well respected, very well liked and had been doing really well on the course,” she said. Olivia was one of up to 30 students from the institute who go to the US every year on a J1 visa.

“She was working in a restaurant in Ireland before she went out and our understanding is that she had a job in a sushi restaurant in California,” said Dr Doona.

She had been sharing a flat in the US with a number of the others who had been killed and injured.

Olivia had completed a five month placement at East Coast Radio in Ireland recently, where colleagues praised as a “bright, bubbly, young kid”.

“The first thing you think about when you hear about this is how terrible for the friends and family and then, as president, the second thing I thought is I wonder if any of our students are involved, and sadly we discovered that Olivia was one of the victims,” said Dr Doona.

“It’s very dim and very quiet here on the campus this morning.

“We’ve put in supports for students, so we have counsellors on site, we have our nurse on site.

Olivia and Eimear Walsh were former classmates at Loreto College in Foxrock, south Dublin.

In a statement, the school said it was “deeply saddened and shocked” by the Berkeley tragedy.

“We offer our deepest sympathies to the families of Olivia and Eimear, and to the families of the other students who died,” a spokeswoman said.

“Please keep in your thoughts and prayers all those who have been injured and affected by this terrible tragedy.” Bernadette Prendiville, principal at Loreto, described the girls as beautiful, quiet and in the prime of life.

“We are very shocked, that’s the bottom line,” she said.

“They were two absolutely gorgeous students, that’s where we are all at. Everybody is just trying to really deal with that and no more.

“They were in the prime of their lives. They had a successful time in school, went about their work quietly and had everything going for them, everything ahead of them,” she said.

READ MORE: New York Times apologises for Berkeley article .

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