Saturday 22 November 2014

Belgium fire: Heartbroken mother flies out to collect body of her 'smiling angel'

Horror as young students killed in Belgium

Published 01/02/2014 | 02:30

Police and fire fighters at the scene of the deadly blaze in Bank Straat, Leuven, Belgium, in which Irish students Dace Zarina, inset left, and Sara Gibadlo, right, died.
22 year old Dace Zarina from Longford and 19 year old Sara Gibadlo from Oranmore, Galway died in the fire
Dace Zarina (19)
Sara Gibadlo (22), left and Dace Zarina (19)
Sara Gibadlo (18), left and Dace Zarina (22)

The distraught mother of a young woman who died in a horror blaze in Belgium has spoken of her "devastation" and paid special tribute to her "smiling angel".

Dace Zarina (22), from Longford, and 19-year-old Sara Gibadlo, from Oranmore in Galway, died at their student residence at the Leuven Institute in Belgium.

Their bodies were recovered by police on the second floor of the building following the fire.

Dace's mother, Sanita, said she now wants "answers" as to what caused the fire that resulted in her daughter's tragic death over 600 miles from home.

She said her daughter and Sara were staying in the same room at the residence, but were not "close friends".

"We had talked on the phone only yesterday and she was very happy in the place she was staying," she told the Irish Independent last night.

"She liked the college, and her work placement, and everybody around her. She arrived in Belgium on January 3, so she wasn't there very long.

"She had asked me to send her a parcel with some things in it and she was waiting for it. I said 'of course', and had bought everything she wanted.

"She was asking for some particular sweets that she could only get back home. There were other small things and she had asked me for other things like shirts for work.

"Sara and my daughter were not close friends; they had met for the first time a few weeks ago in Belgium but they were staying in the same room."

Speaking last night at Dublin Airport, before boarding a flight to Belgium, she said once Dace's remains are released, the heartbroken family will travel to Latvia where her burial will take place.

Dace's 23-year-old brother, who lives in Latvia, also arrived in Belgium last night.

"I want to be there for my daughter," said Sanita.

"She had worked with me in a petrol station and she was always smiling and happy. Everybody said she was such a friendly person.

"I haven't been told how or where the fire started. We're leaving now to find out.

"She was repeating a year at college but was happy in GMIT, and last year she went to Austria for a work placement.

"I want to know the situation, how the fire started.

"Dace liked Irish people very much and lived most of the time in Galway because that's where most of her friends are.

"The funeral will take place in three or four days, but first we have to wait until they give us the body.

"She had plans to go into hotel management and after that she planned to study German. She was a great girl and always worked so hard. We are so upset."

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the deaths were a tragedy and confirmed the Irish embassy was working with Belgian authorities.

“Our embassy is co-operating with the families and with the authorities in Belgium to get to the bottom of what happened,” he said.

Mark O'Regan

Irish Independent

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