herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Fire which killed two girls was started by a cigarette

Dace Zarina and Sara Gibadio died in a fire in their accommodation in Leuven
Dace Zarina and Sara Gibadio died in a fire in their accommodation in Leuven
Dace Zarina and Sara Gibadlo died in a fire in their college accommodation in Leuve
Sara Gibadlo (22), left and Dace Zarina (19)

Investigators tasked with probing a fire which claimed the lives of two Irish students believe the fatal blaze was caused by a cigarette.

One year after the tragedy, the investigation into the blaze is nearing completion.

Sara Gibadlo (19), from Oranmore in Galway, and Dace Zarina (22), from Longford, died in a house fire in Leuven, Belgium, on January 31, 2014, just weeks after beginning a 30-week work placement in the city.

The girls were both second-year students at the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), studying a Bachelor of Business degree in Hotel and Catering Management in GMIT's main Galway campus.

They were on work placement at the Irish College in Leuven at the time of the tragedy.

Eight further students living in the building escaped the blaze unharmed.

Louis Roppe, a board member of the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe, said they had been informed by police that the investigation is now "in the final stages".

Investigators believe that the blaze, which claimed the lives of the two girls, was started by a cigarette. It is believed the fire originated on the first floor of the building.

The building in question, which was in compliance with all regulations, has not been touched since the blaze, according to Mr Roppe. He revealed that the Institute had completely changed its plans on where it places students and now has "nothing else to do with the building".

investigation

He said that other than a change in the allocation of students, the Institute had carried out no further internal investigation.

"That is a matter for the Belgian police and we've been told the end of the investigation is now in the final stages. We have no indication when it might be completed but we expect to be informed," he added.

Memorials were held for the victims both in Leuven in Belgium and at the Galway campus of GMIT.

The two girls were originally from Latvia and Poland and had been living in Ireland for a number of years where they had attended secondary schools in Galway and Longford before taking up their third level courses at GMIT.

Mr Roppe said the Irish Institute had remained in contact with both of the girls' families.

"We have been commemorating the girls and thinking about the fire and we're in touch with the families to see if they needed anything. But they want to remember their daughters privately," he said.

hnews@herald.ie

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