‘Kind & loving’ Sabrina John laid to rest after horrific Mahdia fire


By Vishani Ragobeer

Kind and loving were the words used to describe 16-year-old Sabrina John, a victim of the horrific fire at the female dormitory of the Mahdia Secondary School, moments before she was buried in her hometown Karisparu in Region Eight (Potaro- Siparuni).

Sabrina’s body was flown into Karisparu from Mahdia on Wednesday and it was an overwhelmingly emotional day for her family and the other residents of the village.

She was one of four girls from the village who died in the fire.

Mahdia fire victim, Sabrina John will be laid to rest on Wednesday at Karisparu village, Region Eight

Saying prayers in both the Patamona Indigenous language and English, villagers prayed the young girl was finally at peace. But those prayers were punctuated by heavy sobs and wails. It was clear that the young girl’s death was a tragedy no one had come to grips with.

A prayer ceremony was held in Karisparu’s small church (Photo: Vishani Ragobeer/ News Room/ May 25, 2023)

Eventually, the body was taken to the community burial ground.

At the burial site, it was the first time many people were able to see the young girl since she passed away. They were joined by government ministers Priya Manickchand and Juan Edghill.

At the burial site, no amount of condolences, prayers or assurances of support could ease the pain of Sabrina’s family. They were just inconsolable.

Sabrina John’s body being taken from Karisparu’s church to the community burial site (Photo: Vishani Ragobeer/ News Room/ May 25, 2023)
Sabrina John’s body being taken from Karisparu’s church to the community burial site (Photo: Vishani Ragobeer/ News Room/ May 25, 2023)

Her eldest brother, a soldier, appeared at a loss for words. He attempted to remain stoic as his mother, Elizabeth Johnson clinged to him for support.

His younger brothers, who are also older than Sabrina, were a stark contrast.

“Why Sabrina leff we and gone? Why it had to be Sabrina?” one of the younger brothers screamed out continuously.

He eventually fell to the ground, unable to bear the sight of Sabrina’s coffin being lowered into the ground.

Sabrina John’s eldest brother, a soldier, helps to cover her coffin after it was put below ground (Photo: Vishani Ragobeer/ News Room/ May 25, 2023)

Only the headteacher of the local primary school, Lynette Yarde could speak- though briefly, amid tears- about Sabrina.

“Sabrina was not a bad child,” Ms. Yarde declared.

She added, “She was kind and loving, she never gave any trouble.”

Sabrina and 18 others, including one five-year-old boy, perished in the horrific fire.

Her three cousins, Bibi Rita Fiona Jeffery, Loreen Evans and Belnisa Evans, also died. They were, however, trapped inside the dormitory and their bodies are among those in need of DNA testing to positively identify them.

L-R: Bibi Rita Fiona Jeffrey, Belnisa Evans, Sabrina John, Loreen Evans all perished in the fire.

These girls all stayed at the dormitory so that they could attend the Mahdia Secondary School.

Since there is no secondary school in Karisparu- like many other small communities scattered across the forested, mountainous region- some students desirous of pursuing higher education would attend the Mahdia Secondary School.

Because of the distance between the communities and the school, and the difficult terrain, students would stay in the dorms.

Sabrina John was laid to rest on Wednesday (Photo: Vishani Ragobeer/ News Room/ May 25, 2023)

Sabrina was one of the few girls saved from the tragic fire but she succumbed to her injuries at the Mahdia hospital hours later. She was the first of the 19 victims to be laid to rest.

1 Comment
  1. Patricia Pierre says

    Mere words are nothing to console the families of the deceased They were so young and left us so soon. What horror. Could one ever live down the pain and suffering that are being felt not only in the present but for time immemorial.. May their souls rest in peace and rise in glory.

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