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Irish landlord handed suspended sentence following deaths of two Irish students in fire in Belgium

Dace Zarina and Sara Gibadlo, died in a fire at their student accommodation in Belgium in January 2014
Marie Louise McConville

THE LANDLORD of a property in Belgium where two Irish students died in a fire has been handed a one-year suspended sentence in connection with their deaths.

Malachy Vallely, director of the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe, was also owner of the student accommodation where Dace Zarina (22) and Sara Gibaldo (19) died in 2014.

Ms Zarina, who was from Longford, and Ms Gibaldo, from Galway, were second-year students at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and were completing a work placement at the Leuven Institute when they died.

The pair were killed when a blaze broke out at the student house where they were living in January 31 2014.

Leuven Correctional Court heard that the second-floor bedroom window in their room was too high for the friends to escape safely.

The court also heard that there was a number of fire safety issues at the property, including a lack of fire alarms and empty fire extinguishers.

Mr Vallely and the Institute's legal team denied the charges brought against them.

The landlord was handed a one-year suspended sentence. He was also fined €6,000.

It was said the fire at the house started when another Irish student, Shane Bracken, fell asleep after lighting a cigarette. He was found guilty of causing involuntary death and received a three-month suspended sentence. He was also fined €600.

The Leuven institute was fined €60,000.

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