USA TODAY College: Sonoma State University student among 6 dead in Berkeley balcony collapse
Sonoma State University student Ashley Donohoe, 22, was one of six students killed on Tuesday when an apartment balcony collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., leaving seven others critically injured. Sonoma State President Ruben Armiñana sent out a campus-wide statement acknowledging the death of Donohoe and asking for the community’s sympathy in light of the tragedy.
“It brings great sadness to the entire university when one of its students dies at such an early age and promise,” Armiñana said in the email. “Her death is a tragedy which is felt by all.”
Armiñana said Sonoma State will likely hold a memorial for Donohoe in the fall to celebrate her life and time at the university.
Murali Pillai, chair of the Biology department at Sonoma State University, says Donohoe was a driven and dedicated student. She was a member of the Pre-Health club and studying to go into medicine.
“Ashley had a clear passion for and desire to having a career in the health profession and she was working toward achieving that goal,” Pillai says. “I am deeply saddened by this tragic accident and the loss of one of our students.”
Donohoe, a resident of Rohnert Park, Calif., was a 2011 graduate of nearby Rancho Cotate High School, where she volunteered by coaching the school’s soccer team following her graduation.
“Ashley was a phenomenal student both academically and athletically. She was well received by classmates and faculty,” Assistant Principal of Rancho Cotate High School Josh Wilson says. “After high school, she gave back to the school by volunteering as a soccer coach.”
The other students who died in the collapse were Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh, all of whom were 21 years old and citizens of Ireland. Donohoe — who held dual citizenship in the U.S. and Ireland — was Burke’s cousin.
Andrew Martini, a close friend of Donohoe’s and fellow classmate at both Sonoma State and Rancho Cotate High School, says he has been deeply affected by her death. He says Donohoe was not only a leader, but a tremendously positive person who “found joy in anything she could learn from.”
“Ashley strived to become friends with people she hardly or didn’t even know, always welcoming anyone who might’ve felt unwelcomed,” the fifth-year biology says. “Ashley always knew how to enjoy life. She found balance in everything and was able to live it freely.”
Martini adds that Donohoe was a model for all who knew her.
“She had aspirations that were very tangible,” he says. “Nothing was out of her reach.”
Prime Minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny, acknowledged the loss of the students and their bright futures in a statement to the Irish Parliament published in the New York Times on Tuesday.
“It is truly terrible to have such a serious and sad incident take place at the beginning of a summer of adventure and opportunity for so many young people,” he said.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday that the collapse of the apartment balcony was likely due to dry rot from water exposure on the wooden beams that supported the balcony. The fourth-floor Berkeley apartment was the site of a 21st birthday party.