Authorities in the US name the Irish J1 students killed earlier today

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The authorities in the US have named the six Irish J1 students who died today in California.

They are: Ashley Donohoe, 22; Olivia Burke, 21; Eoghan Culligan, 21; Niccolai Schuster, 21; Lorcan Miller, 21,  and Eimear Walsh 21.

It is believed that their families are already en route to the US and will arrived there later this evening.

The well-known St Mary's College in Rathmines tweeted at around 8.30pm that "many of the students involved" in the tragedy were past pupils who sat their Leaving Certs in 2012. 

RTE News also reported that the young people are thought to be studying at UCD. 

Speaking from California, Philip Grant, Irish Consul General for Ireland, this evening thanked those involved in the incident for their assistance. 

"On behalf of the people and government of Ireland I want to express to you the deep gratitude we have to the city of Berkeley; to the police and the fire services, to the emergency services who responded last night."

He continued: "We have thousands of Irish students who come to the States every summer on an exchange programme – they work here and they gain valuable experience here.

"They get to experience America and it's a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful time in many of these young people's lives.

"For many of my countrymen it's a formative experience and to have this happen at the start of this season is something that has left us all frozen in shock and in disbelief."

He added that for a small country like Ireland "very few had been left untouched" by what had happened. 

As well as the six dead, another eight were injured – some of them seriously – when a balcony on the fourth floor of an apartment building collapsed.

It's believed that the 21st birthday party of an Irish visitor was taking place in the apartment at the time of the accident, which occurred around 12.40am local time (8.40am Irish time).

The building in question has been named as Liberty Gardens, used as student accommodation for UC Berkeley students during term time.

Apartments like this are often rented out to J1 students during the summer months.

More than 8,000 students from Ireland travel to the US annually via the visa programme.

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