We are all shocked by the loss of life and injuries in Berkeley yesterday. It is shocking to think such beautiful young people, full of joy, excitement and hope, who had only recently set off on a summer's adventure, died so tragically. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan. Seven young people remain in hospital, some of them critically injured.
Yesterday the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, established a consular emergency centre, which dealt with almost 500 calls. This morning a team of officials is at Dublin Airport to assist the families who are travelling, while the emergency response telephone line remains open to provide support, advice and assistance for concerned families. The families of the deceased and injured will be met on arrival in San Francisco Airport by our local consular team which will assist and support them, together with a number of volunteers who will offer assistance. The Department was in touch with each of the families of the deceased and injured yesterday and each has been assigned a designated liaison officer to help with the practical aspects of the very difficult and emotional journey ahead.
In San Francisco the Irish consul general in the area, Mr. Philip Grant, has been extremely active in liaising with families, supporting students and working with the local police and authorities. He has established an incident centre at the city hall in Berkeley with the assistance of local authorities and local Irish community groups. Additional staff have been provided by the Irish consuls in Boston and New York for families who travel though these cities. A number of hospitals have organised grief counsellors who will be available at the incident centre at Berkeley city hall.
It is terrible to have such a serious and sad incident take place at the beginning of the summer's activity and an opportunity of which so many young people avail via the J1 visa programme in the United States. I encourage families who have remaining concerns about loved ones who might be affected by this terrible tragedy to make contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's consular response team, the telephone number of which is (353) (01) 4180200.
I thank the leaders of the various parties in the House for their support in this matter and solidarity with the families and friends of the deceased and injured. As I indicated, I propose to dispatch the Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora to act a Government presence in solidarity with the families and young people in San Francisco.