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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 9 December, 2019

Bodies of four Berkeley tragedy victims arrive home

Their families have thanked everyone for their support.

Updated 2.58pm

THE REMAINS OF four of the victims of the balcony collapse in Berkeley, California, last week have arrived home.

Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh’s families travelled on the same flight and arrived in Dublin airport earlier today.

Their arrival comes as documents released to RTÉ show housing inspectors found evidence of dry rot at two locations in the apartment complex where the six students lost their lives and seven others were seriously injured.

Ahead of their flight last night, they released a statement thanking everyone who had supported them over the last number of days.

As we leave Berkeley and return home to Ireland with our beloved sons and daughters, Eimear, Eoghan, Lorcan and Niccolai, 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.

In particular they thanked the students who were in the apartment complex on the night of the 21st birthday party their sons and daughters attended.

The manner and speed at which they reached out to our families, to our Consul, and to each other was faultless. Our children were extraordinarily blessed in their friends and we are enormously proud of them.

Berkeley Balcony Collapse Friends and family gather for a service for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati. Source: Michael Short/AP/PA

They said their thoughts and prayers are also with the families of cousins Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke, who were remembered in a funeral mass yesterday as kind, fun-loving young women who shared a bond of twins even though they grew up an ocean apart — one in California and the other in Ireland.

Berkeley Balcony Collapse From left, parents George and Jackie Donohoe with their daughter Amanda Donohoe pray during services for Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke. Source: Associated Press

Berkeley Balcony Collapse Olivia Burke's brother Gavin Burke holds consoles his mother Paula Burke as Paul burke looks on during the service. Source: Associated Press

Those in attendance wiped away tears but also laughed as a priest shared memories of the best friends.

“Growing up, they would dress alike and they would try to fool their parents into thinking they were twins,” Reverend Daniel Whelton said with those in attendance breaking into laughter.

Whelton said Ashley Donohoe’s mother told him the two were embracing when they died.

In life they were together and in death they are together.

Her sister, Amanda Donohoe, said her sister travelled at least 22 times to Ireland to spend time with their cousin.

Berkeley Balcony Collapse Amanda Donohoe looks at her sister's casket at the service in Coati. Source: Michael Short/AP

“Although their lives were really short and ended in a tragic way, they still led full lives with the short time they did have,” Amanda Donohoe said.

None of us will ever forget them.

At a less sombre celebration of the women’s lives in a ballroom at Sonoma State University, where Donohoe was studying Biology, two giant screen projected photographs of the cousins as children and young women hugging, dressing up and making funny faces.

Berkeley Balcony Collapse A group of friends speak during the service after the funeral. Source: Michael Short/AP/P

A dozen family and friends shared memories of the women that made about 6000 people in the massive room laugh and tear up. A group of Irish dancers performed while the crowd ate lunch.

Source: Michael Short/AP

The families have said they appreciate all of the support and sympathy expressed and asked for privacy now that they are home so they can mourn the sudden passing of their sons and daughters.

- With reporting from Associated Press.

Read: Berkeley tragedy victims were “the products of what is best in Irish families”>

Read: Bodies of Berkeley tragedy victims to be flown home>

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