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Sunday 25 September 2016

Survivors of Berkeley disaster face grilling as lawyers to fly to Ireland

Aoife Beary gave testimony
Aoife Beary gave testimony
Survivor Clodagh Cogley, who signed a petition calling for tougher building standards following the disaster.

A legal team acting for the companies being sued over the Berkeley balcony collapse are to quiz survivors of the tragedy in Dublin.

Two or three of the "most ­stable" injured students will meet with lawyers for the companies in the coming weeks.

The tragedy claimed six lives last June when a balcony on the fifth floor of an apartment block in the Library Gardens complex gave way. Six other students were injured in the incident.

One of those who survived, Blackrock student Aoife Beary, gave testimony at a California state senate committee earlier this week.

The brave young woman broke down in tears as she told those present that her birthday will always mark the day her childhood friends died.

The survivors and the ­families of those who died in the balcony collapse have ­alleged negligence in the construction and maintenance of the balcony, which was affected by dry rot and had mushrooms growing on it.

It is not yet clear what ­questions the survivors will face. However, previously some of the companies involved in the lawsuit have suggested that the students may have contributed to the collapse in some way.

Quizzed

The fact that the lawyers will jet to Dublin was disclosed in court documents lodged in a court in Oakland, ­California, which will hear the multi-­million-dollar lawsuits.

The documents also revealed that the companies being sued have already quizzed a parent of each of the seven students who died.

Companies involved in the ownership, management and construction of the Library Gardens building are being sued. Each has denied liability.

The case is expected to be long and complex, with some of the companies suing other defendants, alleging they were responsible. It is not yet clear when the trial will go ahead.

It is also expected that the number of defendants named in the lawsuit will shrink from 35 to 30. The students who were killed in the balcony collapse were Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke, Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Miller and Ms Burke's cousin, Irish-American Ashley Donohoe.

All of the pals, except Ashley, had travelled to the city to work for the summer. During her emotional testimony, Aoife poignantly paid tribute to her friends who died.

Anniversary

"We have grown up ­together. And now my birthday will always be their anniversary," she said.

Aoife not only suffered a traumatic brain injury, she was also forced to undergo open heart surgery and treatment for a collapsed lung and broken ribs.

"None of this needed to happen," she said.

Meanwhile, fellow survivor Clodagh Cogley has backed an online petition calling for tougher building standards.

Jackie Donohoe, mother of victim Ashley Donohoe, launched the petition which has already been backed by 5,000 people.

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