GMIT students mourn the tragic loss of Sara and Dace

Sara Gibadlo (19)  and Dace Zarina (22).

Sara Gibadlo (19) and Dace Zarina (22).

The funerals of the two young GMIT students who were killed in a fire in a student residence in Belgium will take place in the coming days as family, classmates, friends, and staff of the technical institute mourn the tragic loss together in Galway.

The funerals of Sara Gibadlo (19 ) of Oranmore and Dace Zarina (22 ) will take place in their home countries of Poland and Latvia respectively. The two young women were Irish nationals.

Attending the funerals will be two senior representatives of GMIT who will be accompanied by a select group of close friends and classmates of the women from the college.

Back in Galway, students and classmates of the women have joined together to mourn the tragic loss of the pair. Yesterday, the GMIT Students’ Union held a private memorial service for those affected by the deaths at the request of the students. Today, there will be another private memorial get together which will be exclusive to the staff and students of the College of Tourism and Arts, GMIT. A book of condolences has also been opened at the main GMIT campus on the Dublin Road for those who wish to pay their respects.

GMIT has confirmed that it will hold a memorial prayer service for Sara Gibadlo and Dace Zarina in the weeks to come, which will be open to the public, at a time that suits the families of the deceased.

Sara Gibadlo and Dace Zarina were second year students in the Bachelor of Business degree in hotel and catering management. In early January of this year, the women had set off to Belgium to start their 30 week Erasmus work placements at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe; an institution which has had a long established relationship with GMIT, taking its students on placements for more than six years. While they were the only two GMIT students on placement in Leuven, the women lived with eight other Irish students on similar placements in a nearby student residence.

Last Friday January 31, at approximately 5am, a fire broke out at the residence. While eight of the 10 student residents were successfully evacuated with the help of neighbours and emergency services and rushed to hospital immediately for medical checks, Gibadlo and Zarina remained missing. Their bodies were recovered some time later by firemen once the blaze had subsided.

The building was devastated by the fire, which took more than three hours to control, with a section of the roof collapsing. Although there has been no further information as to the cause of the fire, despite initial doubt and speculation it has been confirmed that while the building was not a registered student accomodation it had been in compliance with fire safety regulations. The building has been housing Irish students who have been given work placements at the Leuven Institute for many years. An investigation is currently being carried out by Leuven authorities and is still ongoing.

Since the tragic incident, senior department heads and other GMIT staff have spent time with the families of the women to offer their support in this time of grief. The college also made every effort to contact classmates and friends of the women to inform them of the tragedy, as many of their class were also on work placements in other locations abroad.

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