Thursday 22 March 2018

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

Aoife Beary
Aoife Beary
People queue up to sign books of condolences at the Mansion House, inset left Hannah Water, inset right Aoife Beary
Aoife Beary
The fourth floor apartment in Berkeley, California where the tragedy unfolded.

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A first cousin of injured Berkeley victim Aoife Beary has movingly described her recent visit to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Centre in California where she was reunited with the J1 student.

Aoife was celebrating her 21st birthday with friends when the balcony of her Berkeley apartment suddenly collapsed. The incident left six young students dead and seven injured.

Aoife's cousin Eimear O'Doherty (24) said she was at work in Westport, Mayo when the call came through from her mother to tell her the shocking news about her cousin.

"By the time we drove up to Dublin my aunt and uncle, Mike and Angela Beary had already left for San Francisco," she said.

Eimear said it was a privilege to meet the fire fighters and first responders who attended the scene of the awful tragedy.

"One female fire fighter told me that she was at the scene within four minutes of the collapse. She still feels so strongly about the accident that she plans to visit the injured in hospital," she told 2fm's Driveby.

Read More: Irish international Sean O’Brien joins rugby stars in support of Berkeley student tragedy

Eimear said that during her 10-day visit Aoife was continuing to make good progress.

"She is doing well and has been moved out of ICU. She has her good days and her bad days. The biggest concern is her brain injury so that's going to be a long road."

She explained that while she feels lucky that she was able to spend time with her cousin, it was frustrating to have to leave and return to Ireland.

"People have been asking if I'm happy to be home but it's hard," she said.

Eimear said that Aoife's parents are "taking each day as it comes" and they are "unbelievably strong."

When asked if she thought that Aoife recognised her, Eimear said, "I think she did but it's hard to say. Nobody can tell the extent of her brain injury."

She said that fellow J1 students have rallied together with the local community in San Francisco and have been incredibly supportive of Aoife and of the other injured victims.

"They have given us endless lifts and even offered to take Aoife's little sister and brother out for the day," she said.

She also recounted that she briefly met Hannah Waters (21) and Clodagh Cogley (21) while she was at the Santa Clare rehabilitation centre: "Both are doing well, they are very busy in rehab."

Eimear gave details of a fundraising event that is taking place this Saturday, 25th July at 11am in Old Wesley Rugby Club in Donnybrook.

The friendly tag rugby tournament will raise funds to cover Aoife's rehabilitation in California. Leinster Rugby and the IRFU will sponsor the event.

Face painting and balloon making will be available for younger children. Details are available on the event's page on Facebook.

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