Mahdia CoI: Absence of Commissioner forces postponement
– hearings to resume on Friday with full quorum
While the Mahdia fire Commission of Inquiry (CoI) hearings were expected to continue on Monday, the hearing had to be postponed due to a lack of quorum. In fact, one of the Commissioners had to travel out of the country due to an unforeseen emergency.
This publication understands that due to the unnamed Commissioner having to emergency travel, a quorum – the minimum number of persons necessary for a body to convene – could not be reached to allow the CoI hearing to proceed.
The CoI is made up of three Commissioners – Retired Major General Joe Singh as Chairman and Attorney-at-Law Kim Kyte-Thomas, and Chairman of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Derrick John, who were all appointed by President Ali on August 10 as Commissioners.
Contacted on Monday, however, the CoI’s Secretary, Attorney-at-Law Javeed Shadick, explained that the Commissioner should be back in the country soon and that the CoI is expected to go ahead with its next hearing on Friday.
The Commission of Inquiry will dive into and report on the events and circumstances leading up to and causes of the Mahdia fire; inquire into and report upon the actions taken to provide swift care, medical attention, and other forms of support and assistance to the families of those injured and deceased; and make such recommendations and observations as the Commission may deem fit, including such measures to prevent the recurrence of such tragedy.
There are three phases of the inquiry: evidence gathering, oral hearings, and report writing. It will last for two months unless extended by the President.
Last week Friday the dorm father, Steve Jerome took the stand as public hearings commenced before the Commissioners. Jerome’s five-year-old son, Adonijah Jerome, was among the 20 victims killed in the Mahdia fire.
On May 21, Guyana and the rest of the world were plunged into mourning as news broke of the tragic incident which destroyed the building and took 20 lives. Those who died were Eulander Carter, Martha D’Andrade, Mary D’Andrade and Omefia Edwin of Chenapau; Belnisa Evans, Loreen Evans, Rita Bibi Jeffrey and Sabrina John of Karisparu; Natalie Bellarmine, Shorlin Bellarmine, Sherena Daniels, Arianna Edwards, Delicia Edwards, Adonijah Jerome, Andrea Roberts, Lisa Roberts, Nickoleen Robinson, Cleoma Simon, Tracil Thomas and Lorita Williams of Micobie.
The Mahdia school’s dormitory housed students from the communities of Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni). 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 and smoke in the bathroom area, which quickly spread in the building, causing several students to receive burns to their bodies and suffer from smoke inhalation, whilst several managed to escape.
Several of the injured students were air-dashed to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) for treatment. On May 27, a 13-year-old girl was flown to the Northwell Health Burn Care Centre in New York to seek advanced medical care. She has since returned to Guyana for further treatment.
Information from the Guyana Fire Service indicated that 14 youths died at the scene of the fire, while six died at Mahdia District Hospital.