Young man with Ballymac roots hailed a hero in wake of Berkeley tragedy

Sian Moloughney

Reporter:

Sian Moloughney

Young  man with Ballymac roots hailed a hero in wake of Berkeley tragedy
A young man who has been hailed a hero for saving his friend’s life in the tragic Berkeley balcony accident is a member of a well-known Ballymacarbry family.

A young man who has been hailed a hero for saving his friend’s life in the tragic Berkeley balcony accident is a member of a well-known Ballymacarbry family.

Jack Halpin, who helped to break the fall of his friend Clodagh Cogley, possibly saving both their lives, is the son of Johnny Halpin. The family live in Dublin, where Johnny is a teacher.

Jack suffered very serious injuries in the fall - he shattered a kneecap and broke his back - but he is getting excellent medical care and his physical injuries will heal with time, his uncle Paudie, who lives in Ballymacarbry, told The Nationalist.

Heartbreaking for Jack is the death of his best friend in the tragedy. Jack and Nick Schuster travelled the world together and even held a joint 21st birthday party with their friends and families before they flew to California, just two weeks before.

The UCD Commerce student hit national headlines in the wake of the tragedy when Darragh Cogley, brother of Clodagh, publicly thanked him for saving his sister’s life. On his Facebook page Daragh said his family “can’t believe how lucky she and the rest of the survivors were and Clodagh wanted to say particular thanks to Jack Halpin for grabbing her and breaking her fall.”

Jack worked for the Omniplex cinema chain. He took the summer off so he could travel with friends to the US on his first J1 visa. Operations director at Omniplex Mark Anderson said Jack is a hero. “We have (heard) that he may have helped save the life of one of the girls involved. This is the ultimate of act bravery and selflessness that would be typical of a guy like Jack.

Johnny Halpin, his wife Dolores and their daughter Marie, who is 23, travelled out to California to be with Jack as he recovers. He is being cared for by surgeons and medical staff at the John Muir Hospital in Oakland where an eight-hour operation saw two metal bars put in to his back.

Jack was a talented footballer and hurler with his club, St Jude’s in Dublin, and had even planned to play in San Francisco this summer. He won’t know for a long time if he can play again but doctors have said his love of sport stood to him and he had been in good physical condition before the accident, which will hopefully help with his recovery. As his uncle Paudie said, Jack was “fit as a fiddle, hardy out, and that stood to him.”

He said Jack had no idea people were calling him a hero, he just feels for all of those affected by the tragedy. “It’s tough on him, it’s a life changing thing.”

After the family had been told Jack was injured in the tragedy the worst moments came when news broke a sixth student had died, and as they were travelling, Paudie said it was three hours before they heard it wasn’t Jack.

Paudie paid tribute to everyone who has rallied around the family since last week. “You wouldn’t believe the camaraderie of the friends,” he said, recalling the birthday party Jack and Nick held and now, the way the Irish students in Berkeley are supporting the families of the deceased and injured, and each other.

He also praised Aer Lingus, who he said were “brilliant” for the caring and sensitive way they looked after the families in Dublin airport and on their journey to San Francisco.

“The amount of texts and calls we’ve got from people, even abroad, they are so good. Something like this brings out the best in people,” Paudie was fulsome in his thanks to everyone who has contacted the family and offered support. “The people over there have been fabulous. The other students are so good and the families. I couldn’t speak highly enough of them.”

The family don’t know when Jack can come home to Ireland but he is an avid Waterford supporter and has his Waterford jersey with him in San Francisco and is looking forward to cheering them on in the Munster final!