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The scene of the fire. nieuws.vtm
leuven institute

Families of Irish students killed in Belgium college fire satisfied with court verdict

Sara Gibadlo, aged 19, and Dace Zarin, aged 22 were students of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).

THE FAMILIES OF the two Irish women who died in an apartment fire in Belgium three years ago said that they were satisfied with the verdict today, their solicitor said.

Sara Gibadlo (19) from Oranmore, Galway, and Dace Zarin (22) from Longford, died at a college residence in the Leuven Institute for Ireland after a fire broke out.

Today Malachy Vallely, the director of the institute, was found guilty of the following charges:

  • Letting a premises to the Irish Institute which does not meet the requirements and standards of the Vlaamse Wooncode, or Flemish Code of Living;
  • Involuntarily causing the death of Dace Zarina and Sara Gibadlo by lack of prudence or precaution, namely by having taken insufficient measures for fire safety.

He was given a one-year suspended sentence and was fined €6,000.

The institute itself was also found responsible and was fined €60,000.

Another Irish student, Shane Bracken, received a three-month suspended sentence and was also fined, but the families’ solicitor said that the court gave him a much more lenient sentence due to the remorse he showed.

At a hearing earlier this year, the families’ lawyers argued that Bracken’s cigarette caused the fire, RTÉ reports.

The solicitor for the families, Colin Lynch, read the following statement after today’s verdict, which was aired on RTÉ’s News at One:

“The families of the late Sara Gibadlo and Dace Zarina wish to acknowledge and to thank the Belgian police and the Leuven fire service for their efforts in investigating and establishing the tragic circumstances surrounding the deaths of their beloved young girls.

“Dace and Sara were beautiful bright young students with immense promise and potential. They came to Leuven believing that they were embarking on an exciting chapter in their lives and their studies.

For the families it has been a long and difficult road, and only now are they getting an understanding of the circumstances surrounding their tragic loss. Unfortunately, a lot of questions remain.
How did two young and vulnerable students from GMIT end up being placed in what prosecutors have described as substandard and inappropriate accommodation?

“The families hope that no other families will suffer the senseless loss that they have endured. Finally the families would like to express their thanks to their extended family, friends and their communities in Oranmore and Longford for their tremendous support prayers and good wishes. It touches their hearts and helps to ease their pain. Thank you.”

The defence has 30 days before it can decide whether to appeal the decision.

The Leuven Institute for Ireland said it wouldn’t be releasing a comment at this time.

Read: Fellow students devastated by loss of two ‘very popular classmates’

Read: Irish students who died in Leuven fire to be laid to rest later this week

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