The Dublin student whose birthday was being celebrated when the apartment balcony in California collapsed killing six young people last year, cried yesterday as she told a US hearing her birthday will always mark the anniversary of their deaths.
Aoife Beary’s testimony to the California State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee outlined the pain she had gone through and was still suffering, but also allowed her to express her despair at the deaths of those so close to her.
The collapse claimed the lives of Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Ashley Donohue, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, and Eimear Walsh.
Aoife, along with Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray, and Hannah Waters have all spent the past year recovering from injuries of varying severity.
The students were celebrating Aoife’s 21st birthday at an apartment in the Library Gardens complex, in the centre of Berkeley, when the outdoor balcony collapsed, dropping them from the fourth floor to the pavement below.
Twelve of the 13 of those injured or killed in the accident were Irish students visiting the US on J1 working visas. Ashley Donohue was an Irish-American cousin of Olivia Burke.
Crying as she spoke yesterday, Aoife told the US politicians: “I miss my friends [who died] so much. I’ve known them since we started school together at four years of age. We have grown up together and now my birthday will always be their anniversary.”
She also outlined the nature of her injuries which have so far prevented her from returning to college and which, she said, included a traumatic brain injury, open heart surgery, broken arms, hands, pelvis and jaw, along with losing a number of teeth.
“I had lacerations on my liver, kidneys and spleen. I had a collapsed lung and broken ribs,” she said. “None of this needed to happen. Some of my injuries will be with me for the rest of my life.”
She told the committee that she and her friends had been really looking forward to the summer in Berkeley.
“I could never have imagined how it could have ended,” she said.
The Appropriations Committee was hearing evidence on a bill looking at building construction, contractors, discipline, reporting, and building standards.
Representatives of the construction industry also attended the hearing and withdrew opposition to a law which would require them to be more transparent about poor safety records and shoddy workmanship.
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