independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Girl who tried to save tragic fire students tells of trauma

Louise McCormack
Louise McCormack

A YOUNG woman who escaped from the burning building in Belgium where two GMIT students lost their lives last month has told how she tried to alert them to the danger.

 

Louise McCormack (20) was the last person to see Sara Gibadlo (19) and Dace Zarina (22) alive. The two young students, lost their lives in a fire at their accommodation in Leuven on January 31, just weeks after beginning a 30-week work placement in the city.

Louise, who lived and worked with the two students, revealed how she has suffered from nightmares since that tragic night which claimed the lives of her two friends.

“I woke up when I heard the fire alarm. I thought it was a phone alarm for work then I realised it wasn't. I got out of bed and went into the girls room. I was shaking Sarah to wake up. She woke up and was looking at me. I was telling them to get out of bed, that there was a fire.

“I ran out of the room and couldn't get down the stairs, I was choking. There was a lot of smoke so I went up to the roof.

“I was sitting on the roof and a man grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me into the next building,” she explained.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Louise revealed how she believed both girls had followed her and made it out of the building safely.

“I thought the girls were out as well. It was only when we were in the hospital that they brought us to a room and told us they'd died.

“I just felt so sad. I was the one that had woke them, I just thought I could have done something more. I can't really sleep since to be honest, we're all just trying to cope,” she added.

The young Mullingar woman had been living in Leuven for the past five months and lived and worked with both girls throughout their brief time in the city.

“They were lovely girls, you couldn't meet nicer. They were really social, every evening we'd sit down and watch telly together. They were absolutely loving the place. They talked a lot about their families and Sarah would be on the phone to her family every day.

“Sarah always wanted to go back to Poland. Dace also wanted to go back home but it was back for holiday's really,” she added.

After their tragic deaths, Louise was brought to meet with the families of Sara and Dace.

“They were crying and thanking me for calling the girls. They were so nice, I just wish I could have done more,” she added.

The girls were laid to rest in their home countries of Poland and Latvia last week.

Following the ordeal, Louise had to wait until last Tuesday before she could fly home.

“Everything was lost in the fire. My passport was gone. My brother and sister came over straight away but I couldn't go home with them,” she said.

Louise returned home last week but she vowed to return to Leuven with her family to introduce them to the man who saved her life.

“I met with the man who brought me in through the window and I thanked him for saving my life. I told him I'd come back to see him with my family,” she said.

She also plans to attend a memorial service to be held in GMIT in Galway for the students in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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