BERKELEY (CBS SF) – Ireland’s President Michael Higgins has arrived in the Bay Area for a five-day visit that will include a stop in Berkeley to meet with emergency crews who responded to the collapse of an apartment balcony that killed five Irish students in June, according to Irish government officials.
The Bay Area visit comes during a weeklong tour of the West Coast. Higgins arrived in San Francisco on Sunday after visiting Washington last week.READ MORE: Fire Burning At Car Dealership Shuts Down El Camino Real Road In Santa Clara
His first visit to Berkeley was planned for Monday afternoon with an address at the University of California at Berkeley entitled “Ending Global Hunger and Eliminating Poverty: is it possible?” A reception was planned for after.
Higgins stopped at the Irish Cultural Center of San Francisco on Sunday and plans a visit to Tesla Motors in Palo Alto on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Higgins will attend a reception at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley for first responders to the June 16 balcony collapse at the Library Gardens apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St.
He will then join Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to plant arbutus saplings at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in a memorial for the six students who lost their lives when the fourth-floor balcony suddenly gave way during a birthday party, dumping 13 people to the ground.
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Five 21-year-old Irish nationals visiting on J-1 visas were killed, startling Ireland as families with students visiting the Bay Area frantically tried to contact their loved ones. The visiting students were identified as Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh.
A Rohnert Park resident, Ashley Donohoe, 22, was also killed.
Flaws in the balcony’s construction have come under scrutiny since the accident, prompting the Berkeley City Council to adopt amended building codes to prevent similar accidents. A city analysis concluded moisture intrusion rotted wooden joists, causing the deck’s collapse.
The state Building Standards Commission decided at its meeting last week to re-examine state building codes in the wake of the tragedy.
Higgins will wrap up his California visit on Thursday with a meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown before departing for Ireland on Friday.MORE NEWS: Big Sur ‘Colorado’ Fire Sparked By Pile Burning Operation, 50% Contained
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