Investigation into Belgian fire that killed two Irish students to be completed by summer’s end

Dace Zarina (22) and Sara Gibadlo (19) died in blaze in Leuven in January

Dace Zarina: student from Longford died in a house fire in town of Leuven, Belgium, in January. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Dace Zarina: student from Longford died in a house fire in town of Leuven, Belgium, in January. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

An investigation into the fire that killed two Irish students in Belgium earlier this year is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

Dace Zarina (22) from Longford and Sara Gibadlo (19) from Oranmore, Co Galway, died in a blaze at a house in the university town of Leuven in January.

They were students of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) who had recently arrived in Belgium to begin a 30-week placement at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe.

The fire began in the early hours of January 31st in a house provided by the Leuven Institute to students undertaking placements at the institute.

Eight other students escaped the fire. Belgian police have handed over a file to state prosecutors in Leuven who are investigating the incident. Police have previously said they believe the fire was accidental.

It is understood ownership of the house is one issue being pursued by investigators.

The institute was not the owner of the house in which the students lost their lives but rents it from an individual. Belgian law requires any building that houses student to be registered as student accommodation.

Students not sent

Since the fire, the Leuven Institute has housed students in alternative accommodation provided by the University of Leuven. The institute hosts students from six third-level institutes from north and south of the Border each year.

A spokeswoman for GMIT, which first sent students to Leuven in 2010, said the events were a tragic accident and an unbearable loss for the families.

Asked if it was reviewing its policy as regards “year abroad” arrangements, a spokeswoman said the institute “reviews all of its policies on a cyclical basis” and its professional practice policy was under review.

Training placements

He said the building where the women were staying was in compliance with all regulations and had been thoroughly inspected by officials from an insurance company.

The establishment of an Irish College at Leuven dates back more than 400 years when Hugh O Neill stayed at Leuven following his flight from Ireland in 1607. The Annals of the Four Masters was composed there in the 1630s.