Dublin in mourning for Aoife almost seven years after the Berkeley balcony collapse

by Rachel Cunningham
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Rachel Cunningham

The aftershock of the Berkeley balcony collapse tragedy continues to rupture the lives of Dubliners, almost seven years on from the event.

New Year’s day arrived with the shock news that Aoife Beary, one of the survivors of the 2015 incident that occurred in Berkeley, California, had died at the age of 27. Ms Beary passed away in Beaumont Hospital on Saturday, after reportedly suffering a stroke last Wednesday. 

She is now the seventh person to have died in the balcony tragedy. Aoife will be reposing at Massey Bros Funeral Home, in Blackrock today (Thurs January 6). Her funeral will take place at 10am in Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, tomorrow. She is survived by her parents, Mike and Angela, a younger brother, Tim, a younger sister, Anna, and her wider family. 

In 2015, five Irish J-1 students, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh, and Olivia Burke, died while celebrating Ms Beary’s 21st birthday after the fourth-story balcony they were standing on collapsed beneath them. Ms Burke’s Irish-American cousin, Ashley Donohoe, was also killed, while a further seven people, including Ms Beary, were injured.

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While contributing to the introduction of a new Californian law regarding balcony safety, Ms Beary told the California State Assembly in 2016: “We had grown up together and now my birthday will always be their anniversary”.

The Blackrock native had to undergo open-heart surgery following the collapse and sustained a lengthy list of injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, lacerations to her liver, kidneys and spleen, broken arms, pelvis, jaw and ribs and a collapsed lung.

Following investigation, it was later released that the balcony had been built by a company that had paid out $26.5m in construction defect settlements that were never reported to California’s licence board. “Extensive dry rot” in the wooden joists holding the deck to the building and in the surface of the balcony was cited as the cause of the collapse following a forensic examination.

Although faced with challenges to her independence due to her injuries, Aoife went on to complete her degree in pharmacology from UCD in 2016 and had recently continued with her studies at Oxford Brookes University, in England.

In a post on Twitter, Cuala GAA, her former club, expressed condolences to Aoife’s parents and the rest of her family. The post stated: “We are all devastated. We pass on the condolences of the whole Cuala community to Mike, Angela, Tim, Anna and the whole Beary family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.”

The US Embassy shared the following message: “The US Embassy in Dublin wishes to extend condolences to the family of Aoife Beary on the news of her tragic and untimely death. The Embassy plaque dedicated to Berkeley J1 students quotes James Joyce: ‘They lived and loved and left.’”

The secondary school she attended, Loreto College Foxrock, also took to social media to pay tribute to its past pupil, along with her alma mater, University College Dublin, and Kilmacud Crokes GAA Club, which had connections to other victims of the accident.

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