Friday 24 March 2017

‘The road to recovery is far from straight’ – Berkeley survivors’ families release heartfelt statement of thanks

The remnants of the Library Gardens apartment building balcony that collapsed. Inset: The six students who lost their lives in the tragic accident, top left to bottom right: Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Ashley Donohoe, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke
The remnants of the Library Gardens apartment building balcony that collapsed. Inset: The six students who lost their lives in the tragic accident, top left to bottom right: Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Ashley Donohoe, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke
Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

THE families of the survivors of the Berkeley Balcony collapse tonight released a statement thanking all those who helped them in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Hannah Waters and Niall Murray continue to recover from serious injuries suffered in the tragedy last month.

Eimear Walsh, Ashley Donohue, Olivia Burke, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcán Miller and Eoghan Culligan all died when the balcony they were standing on gave way beneath them.

The statement reads:

“As traumatic and difficult as the past five weeks have been for Aoife, Clodagh, Hannah and Niall, our constant thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and friends of Eimear Walsh, Ashley Donohue, Olivia Burke, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcán Miller and Eoghan Culligan. May they rest in peace", it begins.

The families then thanked the friends, many of who were present in the apartment at the time of the collapse.

“We are also very mindful of the many friends who were there in Berkeley that terrible night, some of whom were also seriously injured and others who responded so tenderly to the needs of our children at the scene and in the immediate horrific aftermath. They could never have imagined such a tragic end to their J1 experience. Others stayed on to continue to help their injured friends. We are so grateful for what they have done and for what they are continuing to do. They too are victims, and they have also had to deal with the trauma of this terrible loss. We salute them all as genuine heroes and we ask them to take great care of themselves and to continue to look after each other in the coming difficult months. They too will take time to heal.

“We would like to thank all those who have been at our service 24/7 to help us all with matters great and small: The Bay Area and Berkeley police and fire department staff and the ambulance paramedics who were first on the scene of the accident - their early interventions contributed so much to keeping our grievously injured children alive. We are grateful too to the people of Berkeley and the surrounding areas for their on-going help and support.

“Philip Grant and all his staff at the Irish Consulate; the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre in San Francisco and their extensive group of volunteers who have shown such kindness; the alma mater schools and universities, the Garda Siochana, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Anderson, government ministers, the Irish health services, Dublin, Shannon and San Francisco Airports, and Aer Lingus who very generously offered us free flights to and from San Francisco since the accident during their busy peak season.

“Thanks to the Ireland Fund and other donors whose significant contributions have been immensely supportive during our on-going, protracted and expensive stays in the United States.

“Thanks to all our extraordinary families, neighbours, work colleagues and friends who must have felt at times so distant and so powerless to help but who have in many cases thrown themselves into important roles at home and abroad from logistical support to vigils to simply sharing news with families and other close friends.

The statement also singled out the members of the general public who have offered support and contributed to fundraising efforts.

“To the very many others, some of whom we have never met and may never meet, who have contributed to the amazing fundraising efforts in Ireland and elsewhere and who have offered every other type of support: cards, texts, calls, emails, prayers, Mass cards, gifts as well as random but very moving acts of kindness and generosity.

“We would like to express our sincere appreciation for the first class medical care and natural human kindness we have experienced at Highland Hospital in Oakland, at Eden Medical Centre in Castro Valley, at California Pacific Medical Centre and UCSF Medical Centre in San Francisco, and at Stanford Medical Centre. Aoife, Clodagh, Hannah and Niall are now continuing their long treatment and recovery under the care of the superb doctors, nurses, therapists and other staff and management at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Centre. We are forever indebted to Dr Crew and his expert teams."

However, the families recognise that there is still a long road of recovery to be travelled.

“We obviously share everyone's wish for speedy recoveries but we have found that every new week brings more complexity and that the road to recovery is far from straight, even in the very best of clinical environments.

“We hope that our children will be able to make their way home in the coming weeks and months when they are individually ready and sufficiently strong enough to do so. We would only ask that, when they eventually do return, that their many friends and well-wishers will be able to contain themselves a little longer until they are really ready, physically and emotionally, to reach out and invite them to meet. We don't know when this will be, and each will have their own thoughts, needs and timescales but, in the circumstances, we hope you will understand and accept our need as parents and siblings to be overprotective of our brothers, sisters and our kids for some time to come.

“They have been through so much.

“We would finally like to thank the Irish and Californian media for their on-going sensitivity and restraint. We would be most grateful if you could continue to respect the privacy of our families as our children continue to do their best to heal. We will not be making any further comments at this time."

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