A 21-year-old Irish student, one of the survivors of the Berkeley, CA, balcony collapse that killed six others, has started to wake from her induced coma and communicate with her parents.
Aoife Beary, from Blackrock, Dublin, was celebrating her 21st birthday with friends when the balcony at the Library Gardens complex, on Kittredge Road, collapsed. The 40-foot fall killed five Irish and one Irish American student and seriously injured seven others including Beary. Four of those injured are still being treated in hospital.
Beary was put in an induced coma due to the severity of her injuries. However, the family have released a statement on Wednesday, on the Facebook page “Friends of Aoife Beary”, announcing that she has begun to communicate.
It reports that Beary had a tracheotomy in the past week but is continuing to make progress. On June 26 The former Loreto College Foxrock student underwent a successful heart surgery. Although her condition has stabilized the family said her serious head injury remains their main concern.
Her parents, Mike and Angela, remain by her bedside at Stanford Medical Centre, in Palo Alto, near San Francisco. They are making plans for her sister Anna and brother Tim to travel to join them.
Hannah Waters (21) and Clodagh Cogley (21), also from south Dublin, are being treated at a medical rehabilitation center in Santa Clara, south of San Francisco.
Waters, who was critically injured in the fall, is said to be responding well to rehabilitation. Cogley, who suffered two collapsed lungs, a broken shoulder, a broken knee, broken ribs and a broken spinal cord will remain in hospital for several weeks.
Niall Murray (21) suffered hand and leg injuries, has undergone surgeries and is expected to have further surgeries. Jack Halpin (21) has had multiple surgeries, including an operation for a broken leg. Conor Flynn (22) was discharged from hospital two weeks ago. He is staying with his family in the Bay Area as he is unable to return to Ireland until he recovers from a punctured lung.
The students who died were Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh, Niccolai Schuster, cousins Olivia Burke Eoghan Culligan, all aged 21, and Ashley Donohoe (22).
Investigations are being carried out into the balcony collapse. Following the collapse structural engineers confirmed that dry rot, caused by the penetration of water into the wooden support beams, was the cause of the four story balcony collapse.
Alameda County district attorney Nancy O'Malley is now conducting twin civil and criminal investigations into how eight timber balcony beams on a complex built in 2007 could severely rot and fail. A third investigation is being carried out by Contractors State License Board (CSLB), the body charged with regulating all builders operating in California.
Last week it emerged that the balcony passed inspections less than one year ago. According to documents released by the city, a private structural inspector, hired by the Library Gardens Complex owners in August 2014, reported the balcony supports as being in “good condition” and examined the balcony decks, rails and soffits. The records do not show how closely the structures were examined.
California law makers are also now debating changing state law to make it mandatory that all lawsuit settlements involving construction problems after it emerged that both the City of Berkeley and the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) were unaware Segue Construction, which built the Berkeley complex, had paid out $26.5 million in lawsuit settlements over the past six years.