Tributes are being paid to the Irish American student, one of six young adults killed in the Berkeley apartment balcony collapse on Tuesday. Ashley Donohue (22) is remembered as an “outgoing and well-respected” young woman who was proud of her Irish roots.
Donohue, of Rohnert Park, CA died on early on Tuesday along with five Irish J-1 students. The group were standing on a balcony, now thought to be compromised due to dry rot, when the fourth floor structure fell killing six and injuring seven others.
The other five dead have been named as Olivia Burke (21); Eimear Walsh (21); Eoghan Culligan (21); Niccolai Schuster (21); and Lorcan Miller (21); all from Ireland. Two of the injured Irish victims continue to fight for their lives in hospital.
Donohoe, born and raised in California, had dual Irish-US nationality and was a cousin of Burke. Their families have announced that they will hold a joint funeral for the cousins in California before Burke’s remains are repatriated to Ireland.
Father Aidan McAleenan, who lives in the San Francisco area, but is originally from County Down, told NewsTalk that the grieving families, who are now in Berkeley, are “just putting one foot in front of the other.”
"Everybody has just wrapped their arms around the families. When they got here, they were just exhausted. They're just walking here, just putting one foot in front of the other,” said Fr McAleenan.
"But the overriding question was when do they get to see their children, they want to go home at the weekend, so they have to work out those details.
"The families will get to see their children in the morning and then they'll take them home Sunday or Monday, Monday at the latest.
"The two cousins Olivia and Ashley will have a joint funeral in Rohnert Park, it's about an hour and a half north of San Francisco.
"They will have a joint funeral there and then the young woman will be buried, and then they'll bring the Irish woman home to Dublin and she will be buried in Dublin."
Members of the local Irish-American community are providing support and transport to the families. Irish Consul to San Francisco Philip Grant is helping the families as they meet with the Alameda County Coroner to prepare for the heart-breaking journey home. A memorial service has been held overnight at Oakland Cathedral in California for the six who died.
Donohue graduated from Rancho Cotate High School in 2011. Her Assistant Principal Josh Wilson told the Press Democrat he knew Donohue through his role overseeing the school’s advanced placement.
He said, “She was an honor roll student. She was a great student, not to mention a phenomenal soccer player. I knew she had a bright future ahead of her, which just compounds the tragedy that just occurred.”
After graduating Donohue worked as a volunteer assistant soccer coach for two seasons.
Wilson said, “That really showed her character, her love for community. (Seeing her return to campus to volunteer) is something I’ll always cherish.”
He said, “They are just a great Rancho family, involved in many aspects of school and community. At this point, our hearts reach out to them in this time of need.”
Before Rancho Cotate Donohoe attended St. Eugene’s Cathedral School in Santa Rosa, where there are about 40 students in each grade. Among them was the son of Jamie Flanagan, from Santa Rosa.
She said, “We’ve known her since she was 3. Just, everyone is so sad.”
Flanagan continued, “She was just the most positive, happiest thing I’ve ever met. She was just a little ray of sunshine.”
Donohue’s best friend, Andrew Martini, said she “could relate with everyone. Always approachable. Always something funny to tell you.”
He added “She was looking into becoming a forensic pathologist.”