Irish student hurt in balcony collapse recalls 'big rumble'

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Niall Murray heard a "big rumble" and then saw two of his friends falling alongside him as the Berkeley, California, balcony they packed for a party snapped and dumped more than a dozen college students to the pavement below.

Murray, 21, was among seven Irish students injured in the June 16 fall that killed six other young people. In some of the first public comments from a victim of the collapse, Murray said Friday that he would give anything to go back and warn his friends not to go out on the balcony.

He had been at the party for his friend's 21st birthday for about half an hour. At one point, he went inside before returning to the balcony. Everyone was joking and laughing, playing a game where the birthday girl gets 21 kisses. Minutes later, he heard the rumble.

"I remember the night. The only thing I don't remember is how I hit the ground. I figured I must have done something like that to protect my head," Murray said as he placed his hands on the left side of his face.

After that, he remembers being put on a gurney by paramedics and waking up in the emergency room. He still has flashbacks of the gurney.

Murray said his friends' deaths haunt him nearly three months later. Five were Irish students working in the San Francisco Bay Area for the summer, and the sixth was an Irish-American from California.

"I feel really guilty that we made it and some of our good friends aren't with us anymore," he said at a news conference at a San Jose hospital where he has been receiving treatment for a broken wrist, fingers, heel and elbow.

Murray, who appeared in a wheelchair with bandages on his arms and a boot on his left foot, almost lost one of his index fingers but is expected to make a full recovery after more than half a dozen surgeries.

One of the other survivors, Hannah Waters, was at the news conference, also in a wheelchair, but declined to talk to reporters. Two other survivors were treated at the same hospital as Murray but have since been released.

Killed in the collapse were Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park, California, and Ireland's Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh, all 21.

Prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation but have not named a possible target. They say they would have to show criminal negligence was involved in order to file charges and gain convictions.

Murray said he learned about the tragedy through Facebook and remembers calling his family and sobbing. He said he wishes he had learned about the deaths a different way.

He plans to go home soon, possibly next week, and see the families of those who died. He choked up as he remembered his friends.

"It's kind of like a bubble over here," he said later. "It will be hard going home, I imagine."

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