Teenager allegedly ignited deadly Mahdia fire with insecticide after phone confiscated

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 May 2023, 19:14 by Denis Chabrol

Police on Tuesday said a schoolgirl allegedly set fire to the female dormitory of the Mahdia Secondary School on Sunday night, resulting in the death of 19 persons.

Investigators said they would Wednesday seek advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

“A  female student is suspected of having set the devastating fire because her cellular phone was taken away by the dorm’s mother and a teacher,” police said.

Well-placed sources said the suspect became enraged after her phone was taken away and she threatened to burn down the residence for students who attend the Mahdia Secondary School. She allegedly sprayed a can of insecticide on a lit matchstick in the vicinity of curtains in the toilet and bathroom area.

The suspect, according to sources, escaped the inferno after men broke down one of the locked doors. The dorm mother reportedly panicked and could not identify the right keys from among those on the bunch.

Among those who perished was the dorm mother’s five-year old son.

At the time of the fire, there were  57 female students in the one-flat concrete building whose windows were all grilled, police said.

Police said a number of students were awakened by screams and saw fire. “Upon checking, they saw fire/smoke in the bathroom area, which quickly spread in the building, causing several students to receive burns to their bodies and smoke inhalation, whilst several managed to escape,” police added.

Several of the students were interviewed in the presence of a Probation Officer, and statements were taken,police said. The scene is presently secured and guarded by ranks as investigations continue.

Five students were pronounced dead on arrival at the Mahdia Hospital and the bodies of 14 others were found in the debris.

The injured students were taken to the Mahdia District Hospital, seen, examined and admitted patients by doctors. At the hospital, five (5) of the female students were pronounced dead.

On Monday,  between 09:30hrs and 11:30hrs, Government Pathologist Dr Nehaul Singh performed post-mortem examinations with dissections on six  of the bodies: Nicholeen Robinson, Shorlin Bellarmine, Eulanda Carter, Subrina John, Martha D’ Andrade and Adonijah Jerome at the Mahdia District Hospital’s mortuary and said the cause of death was “smoke inhalation and burns”.

The bodies were identified by relatives and handed over to them for burials. On Monday, also, 13 of the burnt bodies were taken to Georgetown for storage and DNA purposes.

Police added that 17 of the female students were medevaced to the Georgetown Public Hospital for medical treatment. “They are in stable/critical condition. Eleven of the female students are presently in stable condition at Mahdia District Hospital,” police said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of persons attended a national vigil at the Umana Yana, Kingston, Georgetown to celebrate the lives of the 19 children.

President Irfaan Ali, Prime Minister Mark Phillips, other government officials and several Indigenous Indians attended the event.