Monday 24 October 2016

Berkeley tragedy: Survivor thanks seriously-injured GAA star for helping to save her

David Kearns

Published 17/06/2015 | 14:31

Clodagh Cogley, left, has expressed her thanks to Jack Halpin, inset left, whom she says grabbed her, helping break her fall, when the balcony collapsed. Inset right: 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
Clodagh Cogley, left, has expressed her thanks to Jack Halpin, inset left, whom she says grabbed her, helping break her fall, when the balcony collapsed. Inset right: 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
Clodagh Cogley

One of the students seriously injured in Tuesday morning's tragic Berkeley balcony collapse in California has thanked another survivor for helping to save her.

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Daragh Cogley, brother of Clodagh Cogley (21), said his sister was doing “really well” following an operation on her spine, knee and shoulder injuries overnight.

“She is awake, somehow upbeat and doing really well. [We] can’t believe how lucky she and the rest of the survivors were and Clodagh wanted to say particular thanks to Jack Halpin for grabbing her and breaking her fall,” he said.

A popular footballer with St Judes GAA in Dublin, Jack Halpin is among the seven Irish students still in hospital with serious injuries after yesterday’s fatal incident in Berkeley.

Read More: Berkeley tragedy: Coverage of J1 students by New York Times branded 'disgraceful' and 'crass'

His father, a coach with the club’s senior footballers, confirmed his son was among the injured but declined to comment further.

The injured students are Hannah Waters, Clodagh Cogley, Niall Murray, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin, Conor Flynn and Aoife Beary, all aged between 20 and 22.

Two of these students are understood to be in a critical condition.

Some of those injured in hospital are reported to be in a stable condition but are said to have 'life-altering injuries'. All seven young people are in ICU in three different hospitals.

Read More: Berkeley tragedy victims: 'Great, young kids... full of energy'

Among those reported to be in a stable condition is Hannah Waters from Castleknock.

Her parents are by her bedside, having flown out early yesterday afternoon, and it has been reported that she is awake and speaking.

Residents in Castleknock are in shock said parish priest Denis O’Connor, with many offering their “prays to this girl’s family.”

“They’re well known in the area and everyone here is praying for their daughter’s recovery.

“So many have felt this tragic because it could have happened to any of their children,” he added.

The fatal incident left six of their friends dead; Irish students Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcan Miller and Irish-American citizen Ashley Donohue, who lived in California.

Friends and loved ones have begun paying emotional tributes.

Clodagh Cogley from Milltown, Dublin, injured in the Berkeley balcony fall.
Clodagh Cogley from Milltown, Dublin, injured in the Berkeley balcony fall.

UCD students Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan had also studied together at St Mary's College in Rathmines, Dublin, and left for college life in the class of 2012.

"The thoughts and prayers of everybody in the St Mary's community are with the families of Niccolai and Eoghan, and the other Irish youngsters who died or were injured in the heartbreaking accident in the United States yesterday," St Mary's said.

Injured student Jack Halpin
Injured student Jack Halpin
Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley
Workmen examine the damage at the scene of the balcony collapse in Berkeley, California
Two grief-stricken Irish students, who say they knew the victims, look on as sheriff’s deputies move the body of a friend who died in the Berkeley balcony collapse.
Click to see a bigger version of the graphic
Police hold up sheets as medical staff take away the bodies of the dead students at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley.
Stunned onlookers at the scene of the tragedy
Olivia Burke
Lorcán Miller
Lorcan Miller took key positions in the school's Model United Nations St Andrew's College/PA Wire (undated photo)
Eimear Walsh
Eoghan Culligan
Ashley Donohoe
Niccolai Schuster
The remains of the damaged balcony are removed from the 4th-story apartment building in Berkeley. Photo: Reuters
Aoife Beary
Injured student Aoife Barry
Injured student Jack Halpin
Injured student Jack Halpin

"We also pray particularly for those being treated in hospital, and their families, many of whom are travelling today to the US."

Lorcan Miller was a former pupil at St Andrew's College in Booterstown, south Dublin, where his mother had taught Irish, and had gone on to study medicine in UCD, as had Eimear Walsh.

Headmaster Peter Fraser recalled him as an exceptional person.

An additional statement from the school said that "the thoughts and prayers of everyone in the St. Andrew’s community are with the family of former Andrew's boy Lorcan Miller and the other young people who died or were injured in the accident in Berkeley, California".

Read More: Nation grieves as summer of adventure ends in awful tragedy

Eoghan Culligan was also a highly regarded Gaelic football player and turned out for Ballyboden St Enda's in a county final in 2011.

"Eoghan was very popular with his team-mates and this tragic news is keenly felt by all members of our Club, but especially by those players and mentors who knew him well," the club said.

He was studying at Dublin Institute of Technology, where he had finished his third year in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.

The college president Professor Brian Norton said: "The sadness felt at this tragedy reaches far beyond those who knew the students personally.

"We know that this is a very difficult time for many students, both at home and those who are travelling for the summer holidays."

Olivia Burke was remembered as a very well-liked student in a close-knit group at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT).

The 21-year-old from Foxrock was expected back at the south Dublin college in September to start her final year of a degree in entrepreneurship and management.

Dr Annie Doona, IADT president, said there are counsellors on hand for friends and family turning up at the college today to remember her.

"She was working in a restaurant in Ireland before she went out and our understanding is that she had a job in a sushi restaurant in California," said Dr Doona.

She had been sharing a flat in the US with a number of the others who had been killed and injured.

Olivia had completed a five month placement at East Coast Radio in Ireland recently, where colleagues praised as a "bright, bubbly, young kid".

"The first thing you think about when you hear about this is how terrible for the friends and family and then, as president, the second thing I thought is I wonder if any of our students are involved, and sadly we discovered that Olivia was one of the victims," said Dr Doona.

Olivia and Eimear Walsh, a medicine student at UCD, were former classmates at Loreto College in Foxrock, south Dublin.

"We offer our deepest sympathies to the families of Olivia and Eimear, and to the families of the other students who died," a spokeswoman said.

"Please keep in your thoughts and prayers all those who have been injured and affected by this terrible tragedy."

Lorcan Miller was a former student at St Andrew's College in Dublin.

"Lorcan was an outstanding student who left the College in 2012 to take up an Entrance Exhibition Award to UCD to study medicine. He was a Deputy Head of School, a very fine hockey player and a strong supporter of our music and the Model United Nations," the school said.

"Lorcan was well known to all and had a very well developed social conscience which clearly motivated his concern for others. Lorcan was one of our brightest and best students who made a generous and wide-ranging contribution to St. Andrew’s. Since leaving in 2012 he would return regularly to assist students in preparing for HPAT examinations."

The flags at National University of Ireland, Galway were flown at half-mast today in honour of the students and all those involved in the tragedy.

President Dr Jim Browne said that all at NUI are "deeply saddened and heartbroken" at the "untimely loss of life has shocked the University communities across Ireland".

"The University also wishes to express its heartfelt condolences to our colleagues at other Institutions who are in mourning at this time," he said

"We also offer our support, through whatever means possible, to our students who may have been injured or affected by this tragic incident and a book of condolences is now on the University website. May these young students rest in peace."

Aer Lingus has been accommodating affected family members with flights from Ireland to California.

"We have been liaising with various Government departments to offer support and assistance to the families of those involved in this terrible tragedy," a spokesperson for the airline confirmed.

"Our North American office has also been assisting those involved with reservations. Our cabin crew are offering support and comfort to those families who are travelling with us. Our deepest sympathies go to the families."

Two of the seven who were hospitalised are believed to be in a critical condition, while a number have suffered what were described as 'life-changing' injuries.

Clodagh's father, Niall Cogley said it was a 'miracle' his daughter was alive.

A former chief executive with Setanta Sports Ireland and former RTE head of sports, he said his daughter “seemed chirpy enough given what had happened to her, but I don’t know how much of that was down to the medication she is on and putting a brave face on for us.”

“We don’t know the full extent of her injuries at the moment, we are just thankful she is alive.”

Mr Cogley said the psychology student had only been away for a few weeks after finishing her exams in Trinity College.

Read more: Berkeley tragedy: 'It is the worst day of my life'

“From what I understand, there was a 21st and there was a bunch of them on a balcony either getting some air or dancing or whatever you do at a 21st,” he said.

“Then it just fell from the sky and they all ended up on the street, half of them dead.

“It was a very small community of them over there and they were sticking together. Many had only finished exams in the last fortnight.

“People fell 40 feet. It’s a tragedy. There are so many bereaved families.”

Posting on Facebook, brother Daragh said the entire Cogley family’s prays were with the remaining survivors and the families of the decreased.

Read More: Injured in balcony tragedy could face big medical costs despite insurance

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said that his department are continuing to offer support to "the bereaved, the injured and the students affected" in the tragedy.

“We are also conscious that many Irish students were not physically injured, but were left deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of friends and classmates in this terrible accident. The Consulate has worked with local authorities in Berkeley to  set up an incident centre in Berkeley, where grief counsellors will be on site and people will also have facilities to make phone calls home.

“I would encourage any families who have concerns about any loved ones in San Francisco and who may require these services to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Consular Response Team on +353 1 418 0200." has learned that not all of the dead and injured were actually on the fourth-storey balcony in the Library Gardens complex when it collapsed at 12.40am.

Police are investigating the likelihood some of the students fell while trying to save those on the balcony as it gave way.

Four of the students died at the scene, one on the way to hospital and another passed away in hospital later in the day.

Berkeley police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats described the survivors' injuries as "very serious and potentially life-threatening".

The apartment, number 405, was rented out by Eimear, Olivia and Aoife but many of those attending the gathering would have lived close by.

The victims are primarily made up of two groups of friends from the Terenure, Rathfarnham and Foxrock areas. Some are past-pupils of the well-known St Mary's Schools in Rathmines and Loreto in Foxrock.

Read More: Live: Berkeley tragedy - A nation left heartbroken

There are also concerns that the survivors of the Berkeley balcony collapse could now be facing massive medical bills as they are treated in American hospitals for their injuries.

Medical insurance is mandatory for all J1 visa holders and the level and range of such insurance was upgraded earlier this year for all those travelling to the US.

However, it is feared that costs could still mount for the injured.

Minimum levels of Insurance cover for J1 students are determined by US State Department Regulations.

In May, the Department increased the amount of insurance coverage J1 program participants are required to maintain. It saw the required level of medical benefits paid per accident rise from $50,000 to $100,000.

The level of expenses associated with the medical evacuation of a student back home also increased from $10,000 to $50,000.

The new requirements were announced last October and came into force in May.

All J1 visa holders are expected to have these increased limits covered by their insurance.

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