As students recover in hospitals, support grows for survivors and victims of Berkeley balcony collapse

A note and flowers left in memory of the victims of a deadly balcony collapse at the Library Gardens Apartments lie on the sidewalk on Kittredge Street, near Miliva Street, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
A note and flowers left in memory of the victims of a deadly balcony collapse at the Library Gardens Apartments lie on the sidewalk on Kittredge Street, near Miliva Street, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015.  Photo: David Yee

By Francesca Paris and Eden Teller

As the bodies of the Irish students killed in the recent balcony collapse accident in Berkeley were being prepared for repatriation back to Ireland, the seven students injured in the accident continued to recover in several Bay Area hospitals.

Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters are being treated at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for injuries sustained when they plummeted from the fifth-floor balcony that snapped off the Library Gardens apartment building at 2020 Kittredge St.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.


The victims were celebrating Beary’s 21st birthday when the accident happened at around 12:40 a.m. Tuesday.

Father Aidan McAleenan, an Irish pastor at Oakland’s Saint Columba Catholic Church, has been providing support for the families of the victims and has visited the injured students in the hospital.

Speaking at a service at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland on Wednesday night, McAleenan said none of the students had life-threatening injuries and that doctors have said the students will “be able to bounce back.” The friends of the injured students, he said, “are camped out at the hospital.”

story published in the Irish Times on Thursday, however, reported that Waters and Beary remained in critical condition at Highland Hospital, and that they were being closely monitored by medical staff. A Wednesday story in the same paper reported that the other five were in stable condition at two other hospitals.

“Two of the five stable students were in surgery for most of Tuesday and are said to have serious, life-changing injuries,” according to the Times.

McAleenan also said that the bodies of the deceased would be flown home no later than Monday. Autopsies needed to be conducted before that could happen, and the Alameda County coroner’s office released those reports Thursday. The reports showed that the victims died of “multiple blunt injuries.”

Ashley Donohoe, 22, and her cousin Olivia Burke, 21, who were among those killed in the balcony collapse, will have a joint funeral in Donohoe’s hometown, Rohnert Park, before Burke’s body is repatriated, McAleenan said.

A mural painted in support of the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse accident, posted on Facebook by one those injured in the accident. Photo: Sean Fahey/Facebook.
A mural painted in support of the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse, posted on Facebook by one those injured in the accident. Photo: Sean Fahey/Facebook.

In a public post on Facebook Wednesday morning, Cogley’s brother, Daragh, said that after operations on her spine, knee and shoulder injuries overnight she is “awake, somehow upbeat and doing really well.” He added that he “can’t believe how lucky she and the rest of the survivors were” and that she wanted to thank Halpin for “grabbing her and breaking her fall” as the balcony began to collapse.

Today, he thanked everyone for all the messages being sent to his sister. “Staying positive is one of the most important things for Clodagh right now, the hospital hopes to move her out of the ICU in the next couple of days and into rehab so any sort of positive news will go such a long way,” he posted on Facebook.

Flynn’s sister, Erin, also posted on Facebook on her way to the airport Wednesday morning. “I want to thank everyone for their amazing support and touching messages,” she wrote. “I am so so thankful that my brother Conor was one of the lucky ones, to even be alive.” Flynn went on to attack a New York Times article that has garnered criticism for its coverage of the accident, calling it “disgusting.”

Aoife Beary’s father, Mike Beary, posted to Twitter on Wednesday that he was with his daughter at the hospital. “We are with Aoife now by her side and she has excellent care at @AlamedaHealth #Berkeley,” he wrote. He added in a subsequent tweet: “We pray for the other families of the deceased and injured #Berkeley #thefightingirish.”

Fahey posted on Facebook from the hospital, thanking everyone for their support. “Thanks everyone for the support in such a dark time RIP,” he wrote. He included a photograph of a wall (shown above) spray-painted with the words “Berkeley Six Rest in Paradise.”

The outpouring of support for the victims on social media has been significant. On Twitter, people have been offering sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of the injured and dead, using the hashtag #BerkeleyBalconyCollapse.

German soccer player Bastian Schweinsteiger, who plays for Bayern Munich and the German national team, shared a photo of himself and Nick Schuster, who died in the collapse, after Schuster’s friend contacted Schweinsteiger via Facebook. Schuster was a fan of Bayern and of Schweinsteiger, according to his friend, Conor Thompson, and was wearing a Bayern shirt in the photo taken with the soccer star. “I wish [Nick’s family] much strength for this difficult time,” Schweinsteiger wrote in the post.

German soccer player Bastian Schweinsteiger posted on Facebook in response to the death of Nick Schuster. Image: Facebook
German soccer player Bastian Schweinsteiger posted on Facebook in response to the death of Nick Schuster. Image: Facebook

A small but growing number of people are even asking famous author J.K. Rowling via Twitter whether she would get in touch with Cogley, who has been listening to Harry Potter audio tapes as she recovers in a local hospital, according to her brother. Rowling, who is active on Twitter, had not responded to the tweets at the time of publication. [Update, June 19: J.K. Rowling delivered with a tweet sent out on June 19. It reads: "Wishing Clodagh Cogley a very speedy recovery and sending much love to her, her friends and family xxx.”]

Irish airline Aer Lingus has received praise for its compassion and sensitivity in the way it has helped family members fly between Ireland and the Bay Area, according to Irish press. At least two families of the injured students, and one of a student who died, have arrived in Berkeley so far. The airline did not sell newspapers on the flights with family members, and when it came time to disembark from the aircraft, the other passengers stayed seated and allowed the families to exit the plane first.

Support has also arrived in the form of donations. Clementine Keane, a close friend of Burke’s, created a GoFundMe campaign asking for donations to help her and five of her classmates return to Dublin for Burke’s funeral. “We desperately want to fly home to say our last goodbyes to our beautiful friend,” Keane wrote. In about a day, she has raised $7,566 of her requested $10,000.

A relief fund set up by the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center to help the immediate needs of the families and students in Berkeley, the Irish J1 Berkeley Tragedy Fund, has raised more than $100,000 in two days, on a goal of half that.

Update, 6/22: Menchie’s, a local frozen yogurt shop at 1862 Euclid, will be donating 20% of its proceeds to the J1 Tragedy Fund on Tuesday June 23. Owner Stacey Aucella said the store has done fundraisers before (the last one raised over $350,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation, Aucella said) but that this tragedy “really touched me” as a parent. The J1 Tragedy fund had raised over $200,000 at the time of this update.

Francesca Paris and Eden Teller are Berkeleyside summer interns. Paris is a sophomore at Williams College in Williamstown, MA, and Teller is a junior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN.

Related
Coroner releases autopsy report on balcony victims; first responders sought help for stress, shock (06.18.15)
City posts documents from balcony collapse property (06.18.15)
At park vigil, cathedral mass, victims of balcony collapse remembered (06.18.15)
Firm that built Berkeley complex has been fined, sued (06.17.15)
Support springs up for families, friends of deceased (06.17.15)
As Berkeley orders removal of second balcony, questions over quality of construction (06.17.15)
Berkeley building under scrutiny before balcony collapse (06.17.15)
Mayor, consul general, lay wreaths to honor 6 killed in Berkeley balcony collapse (06.16.15)
Six who died in Berkeley: Young students in their prime (06.16.15)
Six students killed in Berkeley balcony collapse identified (06.16.15)
Berkeley orders balcony removal after tragedy kills 6 (06.16.15)
Berkeley balcony collapse leaves 6 students dead (06.16.15)

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