Sunday 22 April 2018

Families hopeful that Berkeley victims can travel home 'in weeks'

Injured student Aoife Beary
Injured student Aoife Beary
Hannah Waters (on right) who was injured in the balcony accident in Berkeley. (ID by neighbours).
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

The families of four students injured in the Berkeley balcony collapse have revealed they are hopeful their children will return home to Ireland in the coming weeks.

The relatives of Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters - who are receiving round-the-clock care in a hospital in Santa Clara, south of San Francisco - said their "constant thoughts and prayers" were with the families of the six students who died in the tragedy last month.

"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," the families said in a statement issued last night. "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."

Read more: Berkeley families' statement in full

They requested that when they eventually do return home, that their friends and well-wishers afford them the space needed to "physically and emotionally" continue their recovery.

Read more: 'She has good days and bad' - Berkeley victim Aoife Beary's cousin describes recent visit to California

"We don't know when this will be, and each will have their own thoughts, needs and time scales.

"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."

The families also paid special tribute to friends of the victims who helped the injured in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

"We are 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."

The students who tended to the victims "could never have imagined such a tragic end to their J1 experience", while others stayed on to help their injured friends, the families said.

Read more: Nicky Byrne joins stars at sell-out fundraiser for Berkeley survivors

"We are so grateful for what they have done and for what they are continuing to do," the statement added.

"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 difficulties. They too will take time to heal."

They also noted the contribution of the police, paramedics and fire department staff who arrived at the Library Gardens apartment complex in downtown Berkeley within minutes of the accident.

"Their early interventions contributed so much to keeping our grievously injured children alive."

The parents also thanked everyone who contributed to the fundraising efforts for the injured and for the other types of support including "random but very moving acts of kindness and generosity".

Eimear Walsh, Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcán Miller and Eoghan Culligan were all killed in the fourth-floor balcony collapse on June 16 last. Seán Fahey, Jack Halpin and Conor Flynn - three of the seven students injured - have already returned to Dublin, where they are receiving treatment as part of their recovery.

Read more: Aoife's godfather tells of Berkeley shock

The statement also expressed their gratitude to the Ireland Fund and other donors whose contributions have been "immensely supportive during our ongoing, protracted and expensive stays in the United States".

They asked the media to continue to respect their privacy.

Aoife Beary, from Blackrock in Dublin, was celebrating her 21st birthday with friends at her apartment at the time of the collapse.

Earlier this month, a statement on the Friends of Aoife Beary Facebook page revealed she had slowly started to awaken from the induced coma.

"Both her medical team and parents are optimistic that she will make a good recovery," said the statement.

"This will be a long and slow road to recovery over many months to come."

Irish Independent

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