Berkeley balcony collapse survivor Aoife Beary dies

Dublin woman was one of seven students who survived the 2015 tragedy in the US

Aoife Beary and six other students were left with life-changing injuries after the Berkeley balcony collapse tragedy in 2015

Aoife Beary and six other students were left with life-changing injuries after the Berkeley balcony collapse tragedy in 2015

 

One of the survivors of the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse tragedy in the US has died.

Aoife Beary (27) from Blackrock in south Dublin, and six other students were left with life-changing injuries after the accident at an apartment block in California, which claimed the lives of six of her friends.

The tragedy occurred as the group of students, most of whom were in the US on J-1 summer working visas, were celebrating her 21st birthday at a party in the Library Gardens apartment block on June 16th, 2015.

She suffered a serious brain injury in the fall and subsequently underwent open heart surgery. She was left with multiple injuries including broken bones and organ lacerations and received treatment and rehabilitation at hospitals in California and Dublin in the months after the accident.

Ms Beary died at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin on Saturday night after suffering a stroke on Wednesday. She had been studying at Oxford Brookes University in England in recent years and was doing a a pharmacology degree at UCD at the time of the 2015 accident.

Aoife Beary (centre) tesifying at the Californian legislature, Sacramento on August 10th 2016, with her mother Angela and Vice Consul Kevin Byrne of the Irish Consulate General. Photograph: Darcy Costello/AP
Aoife Beary (centre) tesifying at the Californian legislature, Sacramento on August 10th 2016, with her mother Angela and Vice Consul Kevin Byrne of the Irish Consulate General. Photograph: Darcy Costello/AP

Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh, Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, and cousins Olivia Burke and Ashley Donohoe died in the balcony collapse.

In the years after the tragedy, Ms Beary was involved in a campaign to force building companies to release public safety records and report any work-related crimes or settlements to the California’s building regulator.

She testified before the California state legislature in 2016 in a hearing on legislation to force contractors to be more transparent about past legal claims against them.

The balcony was constructed by a company that had a history of legal claims against it, which were not disclosed to the Californian state licensing board that regulates the industry.

In testimony to the California State Senate, Ms Beary said that she and the friends she lost in the accident had grown up together and had travelled to Vancouver, Thailand and Vietnam in previous summers and were looking forward to their summer in California.

“Now my birthday will always be their anniversary,” she said.

Ms Beary told the California politicians that “some of my injuries will be with me for the rest of my life”. She said she had lost much of her independence after the accident and that her career goals had been stopped.

“My life has been changed forever,” he said.

Ms Beary is survived by her parents Mike and Angela, her younger brother Tim, her younger sister Anna and her wider family.

University College Dublin, where Ms Beary graduated from pharmacology in 2016, also extended its “deepest sympathies” to the Dubliner’s family and friends.

Prof Joe Carthy, the then dean of science, said: “Aoife dealt with the devastating impact of her accident with great bravery and fortitude. She will be greatly missed by her family and wide circle of friends.”

“I know Aoife’s passing will rekindle memories of the six students who died in the Berkeley accident in June 2015 and our thoughts are with their families too.”

Loreto College Foxrock, her former secondary school, said it was with “great sadness” that they learnt of the death “of our much loved past pupil”.

“Our heartfelt sympathies are with the Beary family at this very difficult time,” the school said in a tweet.

Cuala GAA club said it was with “heavy heart and great sadness” that they learned of Ms Beary’s death.

“We are all devastated. We pass on the condolences of the whole Cuala community to Mike, Angela, Tim, Anna and the whole Beary family,” the club said.