By Ingrid Fernandez, Staff Reporter
Three young girls,aged 14, 16 and 17, are dead after a fire broke out at Rockview Youth Hostel on Sunday. They are: Shadesha Arnold, Ana Carlos and Elizabeth McKoy.
The fire took less than half hour to consume the building, where the young girls were locked in. It started before 3:00 p.m. The fire authorities quickly responded to the scene but could not quench the consuming flames in time. The three girls perished in the blaze. Their parents arrived to receive news of their children’s death.
Later in the evening, an investigation was launched by the police department, where approximately 15 officers were trying to gather information on the origins and causes of the deadly fire. They met with the Manager of the hostel and the girls who were there when the fire broke out. At 6:00 p.m., while smoke was still emanating from the building and Belize Emergency Response Team’s (BERT) ambulance was still gathering remains, Minister Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Minister of Human Development and Social Transformation, arrived at the scene.
No particulars of the how the fire started and what caused it were disclosed until the investigation, being led by Superintendent Romero, is completed, according to officers at the scene.
A reliable source stated that the three girls who died in the fire were locked in the building, which was secured by an iron burglar bar. They were on ‘lock down’ because they had run away the previous day and were being punished through that means.
The source claims that the boys, who are housed adjacent to the girls home, heard the three girls yelling that they will burn down the building. The source also stated that there had been two previous arson attempts at the hostel.
The three girls were alone in the building unsupervised, while the other girls were doing recreational activities with their guardian.
When the girls’ yells were heard and the fire was noticed, the guardian in charge at the time, came to their aid but could not get the burglar bar opened. It is claimed that the door had been giving trouble to open for months, but hadn’t been repaired.
When the door was opened, the fire had escalated and the guardian could not go inside. She tried to get through the back door but was unable to.
Investigations and statements from the authorities in charge of the youth hostel are pending.