19 murder charges for teen who allegedly started Mahdia dorm fire

…3 victims to be buried in Karisparu; 1 in Georgetown

The teenager who allegedly started the deadly fire at the Mahdia Secondary School’s Dormitory in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) on May 21 is expected to face 19 murder charges for the lives that were lost in the inferno.
This is based on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack.
Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum told Guyana Times on Sunday that the DPP has recommended to the Police that 19 murder charges be instituted against the teenager. She is expected to make a court appearance for arraignment as early as today.
The inferno killed 18 female students between the ages of 12 to 17 and a five-year-old boy, who was the son of the dorm parents.
Days following the horrific incident, the Guyana Police Force disclosed that the fire was allegedly started by one of the female students at the dorm after her cellular phone was taken away by the dorm’s mother and a teacher.
Initial information received from sources close to the investigation had revealed that the teen in question was reportedly previously suspended for engaging in activities contrary to the rules of the institution and was involved in an argument with the administrators during which she allegedly threatened to cause “trouble.”
The teenager had to undergo psychological supervision; this publication was told last week.
The Mahdia school’s dormitory housed students from the communities of Karisparu, El Paso, Micobie and Chenapao, Region Eight.
The fire was allegedly set in the bathroom area of the dormitory. According to the surviving female students, they were asleep and were awakened by screams. 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.
Those who died as a result of the fire are Tracil Thomas; Lisa Roberts; Delicia Edwards; Lorita Williams; Natalie Bellarmine; Arriana Edwards; Cleoma Simon; Subrina John; Martha Dandrade; Loreen Evans; Belnisa Evans; Mary Dandrade; Omerfia Edwin; Nickleen Robinson; Sherina Daniels; Eulander Carter; Andrea Roberts; Bibi Rita Jeffrey, and five-year-old Adanye Jerome.
According to a Guyana Fire Service press release, 14 youths died at the scene of the fire and the other five died at Mahdia District Hospital. Several of the injured teenagers were air-dashed to the Georgetown Public Hospital in Georgetown where three are said to be in a critical condition.
On Saturday, one of the girls was flown to the Northwell Health Burn Care Centre in New York to seek advanced medical care.
The critically injured 13-year-old child was picked up by the Global Rescue Ambulance via the Air Ambulance at Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA). She was accompanied by her mother to New York. The mother will receive support from the Northwell Hospital, which has waived all costs for medical care, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Saturday.
While at the GPHC over the past week, the teenager underwent two surgeries and her condition, though critical, improved steadily but her transfer was considered to be necessary.
“This transfer was deemed necessary out of an abundance of precaution and made in the best interest of the patient,” the Ministry said.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the Guyana Government said the bodies of 13 persons, who died in the horrific dorm fire were positively identified by experts overseas. DNA analysis on the remains that were deemed unrecognisable were conducted last week by Professor and System Chair, Dr Carlos Cordon-Cardo alongside a team of experts at the Pathology Laboratory of New York-based Mount Sinai.
Samples from forensic specimens taken from the bodies of 13 female students were obtained by Dr Shubhaker Karra Paul, a specialist pathologist from Barbados, while one forensic specimen obtained from the five-year-old male victim was taken by Guyanese pathologist Dr Nehaul Singh.
These samples were compared to those taken from the parents and siblings of the children.
Following the receipt of the DNA results, arrangements were put in place by the Police Force for families to take possession of the identified bodies for funerals. The Government has pledged assistance with these funeral arrangements.
The first funeral of the 19 who perished in the Mahdia fire was held last Wednesday when Sabrina John was buried in the presence of her family at Karisparu, Region Eight.
Additionally, the funeral for three other teenagers from Karisparu is expected to be held on Tuesday. These are Bibi Rita Jeffrey along with her two cousins, Loreen and Belnisa Evans – both sisters. On Wednesday, five-year-old Adanye Jerome will be laid to rest in Georgetown. The quartet was among the bodies that were burnt beyond recognition and DNA analysis had to be done on them to confirm their identity.
This newspaper was told that the funeral for the three teens was initially slated for today but due to bad weather, there was a delay in transporting the teenagers’ bodies to their home village.
Meanwhile, President Dr Irfaan Ali has announced that a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the dorm fire will be conducted to determine the cause and circumstances of the tragic incident and also prevent a reoccurrence. (G3)