Hostel fire report to be released soon Print E-mail
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Written by By Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 14 January 2016 00:00

A comprehensive report on the deadly fire at the Princess Royal Youth hostel on November 26 will be released to the public in the third week of January, says Hon. Anthony Martinez, Minister of Human Development.

Elizabeth Mckoy, 14, Shadisha Arnold, 16, and Anna Carlos, 16, perished in a fire that started at the Youth Hostel after they were locked inside a building for misbehaviour. All three girls were locked inside the wooden building and the door was padlocked to prevent them from escaping. They were part of a group of four girls who escaped from the facility the day before but were captured by Hattieville Police and taken back. Initial investigations suggested that one of the girls managed to sneak a lighter past security check and she lit a pillow to force caretakers to open the door so they could escape again. Unfortunately, the fire quickly burst into an uncontrollable blaze. By the time the girls alerted those outside of the building, the fire was already burning a while. Then, for some still unexplained reason, the guard on duty could not get the locked door open. The three young girls were trapped inside a burning building, screaming in terror and pain as caretakers and other inmates tried desperately to get them out. The effort was not enough. The girls died, hopefully after passing out from smoke inhalation. The Ministry of Human Development reached out to Margaret Nicholas, Director of the National Committee for Families and Children and former Head of the Family Court to lead an independent investigation into the incident.

Minister Martinez said Nicholas’s report will be concluded and presented to the public at a press conference in the third week of January. He couldn’t speak of what he has learnt so far from briefings but said, “One thing I am certain that was hinted to me was that there was a lot of breach of protocol along the lines at the time of that fire.” He said people have been placed on administrative leave and there have been transfers but no one has been terminated as yet. The contract of one of the officers assigned at the Youth Hostel at the time came to an end in December and was not renewed.

The Ministry is already getting ready to implement measures to improve safety that was lacking and exposed by the fire. One of the issues raised at the time of the fire was the late arrival of fire trucks. The fire was reported to them at 2:34 p.m. and the truck from Belize arrived at the scene and got into operation at around 3:05 p.m. By the time they arrived, the fire was already in the free burn stage. Then the first truck ran out of water at the scene and the firefighters had to try to find other sources of water. The Fire Department has recommended that a fire hydrant be installed on the compound of the Hostel and Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Human Development, Judith Alpuche, has gone on the record saying the ministry is in the process of putting in place a fire suppression system which is already underway and is being funded through a loan from the Inter-American Development bank to the tune of 154 thousand dollars. Minister Martinez said, “We are trying to ensure that the other institutions that we are responsible for like Dorothy Menzies and the old folks home that everything is being followed in terms of the right protocol.” Similar safety measures will be placed at the other social institutions that are recommended by the report.