Monday 16 January 2017

Liz O'Donnell: To lose a loved one so suddenly is an irreversible assault

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

Young people console each other earlier this week at a memorial for those who lost their lives after the balcony gave way in Berkeley, California
Young people console each other earlier this week at a memorial for those who lost their lives after the balcony gave way in Berkeley, California

To lose a loved one suddenly in an accident is an irreversible assault on a family. This reality came home to several Dublin families this week arising from the Berkeley tragedy in the United States, when six young Irish students were killed in a balcony collapse and seven more were seriously injured.

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The whole country held its breath while the details and ultimately the names unfolded. There followed an outpouring of empathy and support from thousands of Irish people for the victims and their families. The airwaves were laden with stories of loss, bereavement and grief. Parents who had lost children as long as 20 years ago called in, often in tears, to testify of the pain and inconsolable grief for young lives stolen in similar tragedies.

In my role as Chairman of the Road Safety Authority, I have become more conscious of the visceral grief which follows road crashes involving a fatality. An average of 16 people die on our roads each month. Hundreds of people are therefore affected. It is the combination of shock, loss and violent death, which escalates the level of trauma for those left behind after road crashes.

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