Monday 23 April 2018

'Sara's life worth more than €6,000' - family's anger at the landlord fined for fatal house fire

Maggie Gibadło, who lives in Oranmore, Co Galway, with a picture of her sister Sara who perished in a fire in their college accommodation in Leuven, Belgium. Photo: Andrew Downes
Maggie Gibadło, who lives in Oranmore, Co Galway, with a picture of her sister Sara who perished in a fire in their college accommodation in Leuven, Belgium. Photo: Andrew Downes
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

The landlord of a house where two Irish students died in a fire has "never apologised", the family of one of the girls has claimed.

Malachy Vallely, director of the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe and owner of the student accommodation in Belgium where Dace Zarina (22) and Sara Gibadlo (19) died in 2014, was convicted on September 5 of breaching fire regulations. He was handed a €6,000 fine and a one-year suspended sentence.

The family of Sara Gibadlo said that while "some justice" was achieved, the outcome is not what they had hoped for.

"They were found guilty, and fair enough, but we just can't comprehend how somebody's life is worth €6,000 ... our daughter's life was worth more than that," said her mother Malgorzta Gibadlo.

"Also, the day after the case, we went down to place some flowers for the girls and on our way back ... I can't even describe in words ... we were so shocked to see him [Vallely] walking in the opposite direction, laughing away and talking on the phone. He looked at us, but he didn't recognise us. He didn't appear for the verdict and the way he is conducting himself, the way he tried to blame others, is just heartbreaking and unfair."

Ms Zarina and Ms Gibadlo were on a placement at the Leuven Institute as part of a business degree in catering and hotel management at the Galway and Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).

Sara’s mother Malgorzta Gibadlo. Photo: Andrew Downes
Sara’s mother Malgorzta Gibadlo. Photo: Andrew Downes

The Gibadlo family said Sara had hoped to become a primary school teacher one day.

"She had her whole future planned out. She wanted to finish her course in GMIT and she was really excited to become a primary-school teacher as she loved kids.

"She was always smiling and she always knew how to include everyone in a conversation," her younger sister Maggie said. "She was like my mom - I could trust her with my life."

It's been more than three years since Ms Gibadlo tragically died but her family said time hasn't been a healer.

Aftermath of fire in Leuven, Belgium.
Aftermath of fire in Leuven, Belgium.

"The more time passes, the more you think about her. I always wonder would she have got married, where she would have lived ... I feel like our family has missed out on so much. She was just an amazing sister and I miss her every day," Maggie added.

Irish Independent

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