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Aoife Beary, Berkeley balcony collapse survivor, dies aged 27

<i>Darcy Costello/AP</i><br/>Aoife Beary
Darcy Costello/AP
Aoife Beary

By Hannah Ryan and Niamh Kennedy, CNN

Aoife Beary, one of the survivors of the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse that killed six people, has died aged 27.

She was left with life-altering injuries after the fourth-floor balcony of an apartment building in Berkeley, California collapsed and plunged 40 feet to the ground while she and her friends were celebrating her 21st birthday.

Beary died “peacefully” on January 1 “after a brave battle with her injuries sustained” in the balcony collapse, according to her death notice.

Five of the six killed in the June 2015 incident were Irish students, all aged 21, and one was a 22-year-old Irish-American. Seven other people were injured.

On Sunday, Beary’s alma mater, University College Dublin, confirmed that she died on Saturday and extended its “deepest sympathies to Aoife’s family and friends.”

Loreto College Foxrock, Beary’s former secondary school in South Dublin, also confirmed the 27-year-old had died, tweeting: “It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the death of our much loved past pupil Aoife Beary. Our heartfelt sympathies are with the Beary family at this very difficult time.”

Beary, a Dubliner, and five of the six others killed in the collapse, had been working in the US on short-term visas — known as the J-1 summer work travel program — which Irish students can use to spend time living and working in a US city of their choice.

A 2015 report into the collapse found that the balcony had decayed to the point of severe dry rot, which had affected the joists supporting the deck, and the balcony support was also suffering from “other moisture-related damage.”

The apartment building was less than 10 years old at the time of the incident.

Beary was severely injured in the collapse, suffering a serious brain injury, broken bones and organ lacerations, according to the Irish Times. The newspaper also reported that Beary underwent open-heart surgery following the fall.

In 2016, she testified before California state lawmakers during a hearing on a bill that would make construction businesses more transparent. The bill was passed later that year.

No criminal charges were brought as a result of the tragedy, but the families of the victims reached a settlement with some of the companies involved in the apartment block’s construction, management and maintenance, according to the BBC.

In an interview with RTÉ Radio 1’s “Morning Ireland” program on Monday, one of Beary’s former college professors, Orina Belton, head of Pharmacology at University College Dublin (UCD), paid tribute to her, saying: “Aoife really was an incredible student… Following Berkeley, in the face of the tragedy and those horrific events, Aoife became a real beacon of hope and courage in life and determination.”

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CNN’s Amy Cassidy contributed to this report.

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